Amanda Knox leaves Italy after murder acquittal

4th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

US student Amanda Knox flew out of Italy on Tuesday after being acquitted of murder and freed from prison in a climax to a four-year legal saga, as the victim's family spoke of their disappointment.

Knox left Rome's Fiumicino airport on a flight for London and is then expected to make her way back to her hometown of Seattle, where there were scenes of jubilation among her supporters at the news of her release.

The 24-year-old was seen with her parents looking exhausted in the VIP lounge of the airport, wearing a grey cardigan and carrying a black shoulder bag ahead of her flight which left at around midday.

"She told me she does not feel any resentment," Corrado Maria Daclon from the Italy-USA Foundation which helped Knox during her detention and was at the airport seeing her off, told reporters.

Knox was discharged from a jail near Perugia in central Italy on Monday after her conviction for killing her British housemate Meredith Kercher was overturned in a ruling that prompted an outpouring of emotion in court.

But Kercher's family said the verdict was "disappointing" because the truth of what really happened the night Kercher was killed on November 1, 2007 had been throw into doubt and the killer could still be "out there".

"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 family.

"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 they had been through an "ordeal" and a "nightmare" and requested some privacy for the 24-year-old, who had been studying in Perugia on a year abroad at the time of the murder.

Knox's former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was convicted on the same charges and appealed together with the US student, was also acquitted and released and was back in his home in Giovinazzo in southern Italy on Tuesday.

Knox sobbed as the verdict was read out and the US State Department said it appreciated the "careful consideration" of the case by Italian courts.

Knox was acquitted "for not committing the act," judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann said, reading out the ruling after 11 hours of jury deliberations.

Outside the courtroom in Perugia an angry crowd of hundreds of local residents gathered and there were shouts of: "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 bar where she worked as a waitress in her first interrogation just days after the November 1, 2007 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." Prosecutors had been asking for Knox's and Sollecito's sentences to be increased to life in prison.

The final appeal would probably have to be held in Italy in absentia as the US does not normally extradite its citizens abroad for prosecution.

The 21-year-old 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 knife wounds and bruises and investigators found traces of a sexual assault.

At the original trial in 2009, Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Sollecito to 25 years. A third person, Rudy Guede, was also convicted and is now serving a 16-year prison sentence after exhausting his appeals.

The prosecution and the Kercher family's lawyer Francesco Maresca had argued during the appeal that Guede, a small-time drug dealer, could not have carried out the crime on his own, given the extent of the wounds on Kercher's body.

The verdict in Guede's own appeal also said he could not have acted alone.

Italian newspapers on Tuesday argued 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.

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

"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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