THE mother of murdered British student Meredith Kercher said yesterday she was “surprised and very shocked” by the decision of an Italian court to overturn the convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
The Supreme Court of Cassation’s decision is to be the final ruling in the case, ending the long legal battle waged by Knox and her ex-boyfriend.
Arline Kercher, Meredith’s mother, said she found the decision “odd”.
Meredith, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in her bedroom in 2007 while studying in Perugia, Italy.
Arline Kercher said: “I am a bit surprised, and very shocked, but that is about it at the moment. They have been convicted twice so it’s a bit odd that it should change now.”
Asked whether she had any plans following the ruling, she said: “I really don’t know at the moment, I haven’t got any plans.”
Knox, a student from Seattle in the US who was Meredith’s flatmate, and Sollecito, Knox’s then Italian boyfriend, spent four years in jail for the murder but were acquitted on appeal in 2011.
Knox returned to the US before an appeal court last year threw out the acquittal and reinstated the guilty verdicts for her and Sollecito.
But Italy’s highest court yesterday overturned last year’s convictions and declined to order another trial.
Knox said she was “tremendously relieved and grateful” at the decision. “The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal,” she said.
She added that she had relied on her family and friends and thanked her supporters, while her family expressed “profound gratitude” to those who had helped her.
Following the court’s decision, Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said: “Finished! It couldn’t be better than this.”
Knox, who is now 27, waited for the verdict in her home in Seattle. Sollecito, 30, had his travel documents seized while the court proceedings were continuing.
Dalla Vedova said he had called Knox to tell her the news, but said she could not speak through her tears.
“She was crying because she was so happy,” he said.
Francesco Maresca, the lawyer for the Kercher family, said: “I think that it’s a defeat for the Italian justice system.”
The judges will release the reasons for their decision within 90 days after concluding that a conviction could not be supported by the evidence.
Maresca said earlier this week: “The interest of the family is to arrive at the end of this trial. They want to be able to remember Meredith outside of the courtroom.”
Prosecutors claimed that Meredith, a Leeds University student, was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone wrong.
But Knox and Sollecito consistently protested their innocence and claimed they were not in the apartment on the night she died. Rudy Guede, a drug dealer, is serving a 16-year sentence – reduced from 30 years – over her death.
Knox said last year she would become a “fugitive” if convicted and would have to be taken back “kicking and screaming” to Italy.
Last month she announced her engagement to 27-year-old musician and school friend Colin Sutherland, who wrote to her while she was in jail.
A family friend of Knox told the BBC after the ruling that “everybody is very happy to see this finished, so they can get on with their lives”.
Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University in Idaho, worked on the DNA evidence for Knox’s defence team.
He said of Knox: “I imagine she is feeling a lot better – she was under tremendous stress before this, and I think it was really starting to wear on Amanda. She’s trying to start her life as a young woman, so hopefully this will be a really wonderful change and a new day for them and for Raffaele and his folks.
“I hope the Kerchers can find peace as well. It’s just been an up and down thing for everyone for so long.”
He also criticised the investigators in Italy, saying: “The evidence in this case clearly points to one perpetrator. The only DNA they found was the victim’s and Rudy Guede’s, and that should have been open and shut.
“The fact that they persisted in accusing two people against whom there was such slim evidence was really just a very bad way to continue with the case. It’s fine to start with a hunch but you’ve got to drop it when you see the bad data.”
A Knox family friend said prayers were said for Meredith by the Knox family last night.
Tom Wright, who has known Knox since high school and wrote a book about the case, said she is “relieved and grateful” that the court cases are finally over.
He said he was with the Knox family as they received news of the acquittal.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast: “Quite frankly, there were tears everywhere, everyone in the room. Regardless of age, gender everyone was weeping. It was just such a sense of relief. This has been eight years, she served four years that she didn’t deserve. She came home, got her life back together and then again this came back and now finally it’s all over.”
Speaking about Knox, he said: “The world’s going to see someone who is very compassionate for others, and this experience has made her even more aware of people who might be in similar circumstances. She’s an outstanding person of great character and I am just so pleased that people are going to see that.”
Wright said: “I think there is a tremendous amount of empathy for the Kercher family and we are very hopeful that this helps brings some closure for them as well.”
“There were prayers said for Meredith after the decision was announced. There have been thoughts of Meredith and great compassion for that family as well throughout all of this.”
Despite the murder case hanging over her, Knox tried to lead a normal life in the more than three years since she was freed from an Italian prison. She recently got engaged and has started writing theatre reviews and other articles for the weekly West Seattle Herald in her hometown.
Managing editor Ken Robinson said that Knox has completed pieces on local theatre productions and “the occasional feature story”.
“She’s very good. She’s knowledgeable about her subjects, she writes well and she gets stuff on deadline,” Robinson said. “She’s a local person. We knew that she was interested in writing.”
Knox was also paid a reported $4 million (£2.7m) for a memoir about her life in 2013.
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