'Overwhelmed' Knox home after four-year ordeal

5th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

A tearful Amanda Knox paid tribute to her supporters as she arrived home Tuesday, after being acquitted of murder and sexual assault and ending a four-year ordeal behind bars in Italy.

Fighting back tears, the US student said it felt unreal to be back in her hometown of Seattle.

"I'm really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real," Knox said as she addressed supporters and a media scrum at Seattle airport shortly after her plane landed.

"What's important for me to say is just thank you to everyone who's believed in me, who's defended me, who has supported my family," she said in her first public comments since being freed, brushing away tears.

"My family's the most important thing to me right now. I just want to go be with them. So thank you for being there for me."

Her parents, Kurt Knox and Etta Mellas, also offered their thanks, as they accompanied their daughter off the plane and back home.

Lawyer Theodore Simon said the 24-year-old had been through "a trying and grueling four-year nightmarish marathon that no child or parent should have to endure."

The family has said little about her immediate plans -- reports suggest she will try to lie low in Seattle and take time to readjust to normal life, despite the huge media interest here.

Experts say she could earn millions of dollars in book, TV or film rights for the story of her ordeal.

"Amanda Knox is going to be big, because she is so young and she's so all-American looking, and we go by how things look," said Charlotte Gusay, a Los Angeles literary agent.

Knox left Rome swiftly after the decision was handed down by an Italian court, first heading for London to board a connecting flight to Seattle on the US west coast.

She had been convicted along with two others and sentenced to 26 years in prison for taking part in the murder and sexual assault of her British housemate Meredith Kercher, then 21, who was found stabbed to death in the cottage they shared.

Knox's ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who also had appealed his conviction on the same charges, was likewise acquitted Monday in the university town of Perugia in central Italy where Knox and Kercher were studying.

Kercher was found in a pool of blood on the floor of her bedroom. Her body was covered in dozens of knife wounds and bruises and investigators found traces of a sexual assault.

The only person now convicted of the crime is local drifter Rudy Guede, who is serving 16 years after his earlier appeals were rejected.

Though she was cleared of murder and sexual assault, Knox was found guilty of slander for incriminating the owner of a local bar where she worked as a waitress in her first interrogation just days after the murder.

She was sentenced to time already served and will have to pay compensation to the unjustly accused man, Patrick Lumumba, as well as his legal fees.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said he will petition against the ruling in Italy's highest appeals court to "ensure justice is done."

But an appeal by the prosecution would probably have to be held in Italy in absentia as the US does not extradite its citizens abroad for trials.

The still pending legal action in Italy could pose a potential problem for any deal for her story, say experts.

"The legal question has to be resolved that she is free to tell her story without jeopardizing her future," said Dijkstra, while adding that a book could earn her "several million dollars, with world rights included."

Kercher's mother, brother and sister, who traveled to Italy to hear the verdict, said the truth of what really happened on the night their loved one was killed on November 1, 2007, had suddenly been thrown into doubt.

"We're back to square one. The search goes on to find out what really happened," Kercher's brother, Lyle, said at a press conference in Perugia.

Italian newspapers said the acquittals were inevitable given the problems with the investigation highlighted during the appeal, but there was still no convincing picture of what had happened to Kercher.

"This is not a victory for justice. It's an acquittal that leaves a bitter aftertaste," La Stampa daily said in an editorial.

© 2011 AFP

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