'Joking and cuddling' by Meredith accused as friends wept

AMERICAN student Amanda Knox surprised an Italian court yesterday by standing up to deny she killed Meredith Kercher – and explained that a pink vibrator mentioned by witnesses was "just a joke".

Speaking for the first time since the trial for the murder of the Leeds University student began on 16 January, Knox, 21, made a bizarre submission, declaring that she had faith that under the Italian justice system "everything will be resolved".

Dressed in a purple top and jeans, Knox spoke in fluent Italian after friends of Miss Kercher testified that she had been uncomfortable about the fact that her housemate kept the sex toy as well as condoms in a see-through washbag in the bathroom they shared.

It is likely prosecutors will also mention the vibrator, to imply Knox is sexually adventurous, after the judge, Paolo Micheli, ruled the murder took place as part of a premeditated plan to satisfy her attackers' sexual instincts. Miss Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was in Perugia as part of her European Studies degree and was found semi-naked and with her throat cut in the house she shared with Knox in November 2007.

"I just want to explain about the vibrator. It was a present from a friend. It was a joke. It's in the shape of a small pink rabbit and is about 15cm long," said Knox, who is jointly accused with her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24, of murder.

The court also heard from Robyn Butterworth, a friend of Miss Kercher, who was living in Perugia at the time of the murder. The 23-year-old told the hearing that Knox kissed and cuddled her boyfriend just hours after Miss Kercher was killed, and showed no emotion as her devastated friends wept. Ms Butterworth, from Northampton, was the first of seven of Meredith's friends who have flown to Italy from Britain to give evidence in the trial, which is taking place in Perugia.

Ms Butterworth told the court: "At the police station, I found Amanda's behaviour very strange. She had no emotion, while everyone else was upset.

"Everyone was crying, but I didn't see Amanda crying. Laura (Meredith's flatmate] was crying and gave me a hug, and Filomena (another flatmate] was really upset. Amanda was not showing any emotions. Raffaele and Amanda were kissing and joking together. They were cuddling – at one point she stuck her tongue out at him."

Speaking as Knox sat 6ft away, Ms Butterworth added: "I also heard Amanda say that she said Meredith had been found in a wardrobe. She seemed to be talking out loud to the room in general. She was talking really loudly and, to be honest, I found it really uncomfortable. At one point she was on the telephone and saying 'How do you think I feel? I was the first to find her. It could have been me.'

"I remember one thing that really upset me. Natalie (another friend] said 'I hope she wasn't in too much pain.' Amanda said 'What do you think? She f****** bled to death'. But at that point, no-one had told us how Meredith died."

Ms Butterworth said Miss Kercher found Knox embarrassing, and added: "She also told us about a bag that Amanda had in the bathroom. It had condoms and a vibrator in it. Meredith thought it was strange that it was there for all to see."

The trial continues.