Amanda Knox bound for US after murder acquittal

4th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amanda Knox flew back to the United States on Tuesday after four years in an Italian prison for murder, while the victim's father slammed her acquittal as "ludicrous" and "crazy".

Knox flew from Rome to London with her family and then boarded a connecting flight to her hometown of Seattle, the scene of jubilation among her supporters as they watched on television the verdict read out in an emotion-filled Italian courtroom on Monday.

The exhausted but smiling 24-year-old, wearing a grey cardigan and carrying a black shoulder bag, could be seen in the VIP lounge of Rome airport before leaving Italy, where she had come as a year-abroad student in 2007.

Knox 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.

"This result is crazy. It makes a mockery of the original trial," Kercher's father John was quoted as saying by the British tabloid Daily Mirror.

"There were 47 knife wounds on Meredith and two knives used. One person couldn't possibly have done that," said Kercher, who did not attend the verdict.

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.

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

Guede has said he was in the house at the time of the murder but did not kill Kercher and said that he regretted not being able to save her life.

Prosecutors had claimed that Knox, Sollecito and Guede may have been in the house for a drug deal and then taken part in a frenzied sexual attack.

Kercher's mother, brother and sister, who travelled 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.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he felt sympathy for the Kerchers.

"Of course I feel for Meredith Kercher's family, because they previously had an explanation about what happened to their daughter and they don't have that any more, and I think all of us should be thinking of them," he said.

Knox's family meanwhile said she had endured an "ordeal" and a "nightmare" and requested privacy for the former University of Washington student.

Knox sobbed and had to be escorted out of the courtroom after the verdict was read out as her family hugged and cried in joy. Outside the court, an angry crowd of local residents shouted: "Shame! Shame!" and "Murderers!"

Although 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."

The prosecution had requested that sentences for Knox and Sollecito be increased to life in prison because the two had killed "for nothing".

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.

It would have to be lodged by February and could be heard in 2013.

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

Italian newspapers said that the acquittals were inevitable given the problems with the investigation that were highlighted in the appeal, but there was still no convincing picture of what happened that night.

"It is unpleasant that the murder of a young woman remains in large part unexplained," La Stampa daily said in an editorial.

"This is not a victory for justice. It's an acquittal that leaves a bitter taste," it said.

Appeal verdicts that overturn the original case are relatively rare in Italy but Knox's defence had the upper hand for much of the appeal, particularly after independent experts cast serious doubt on some crucial DNA evidence.

© 2011 AFP

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