Witness accuses Amanda Knox in Italy murder appeal

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A key witness in the appeal trial in Italy of Amanda Knox said in a dramatic confrontation on Monday that the young American killed British student Meredith Kercher on a "cursed" night in 2007.

"This splendid, marvellous girl was killed by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox," Rudy Guede, already convicted for his part in the murder, said in a letter read out by prosecutors as he sat impassively in the witness stand.

In a fierce cross-examination by lawyers for Knox and Sollecito, her former boyfriend also convicted for the murder, Guede said: "I've always believed this. I've always said who was there in that house on that cursed night."

Ivory Coast national Guede spoke just a few steps away from a visibly shaken Knox in the same frescoed courtroom in Perugia where she was first sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2009 in a case that has received international media attention.

"The only time that Rudy Guede, Raffaele and I were in the same space has been in court. I'm shocked and anguished. He knows we weren't there and have nothing to do with it," Knox told the court after Guede's testimony.

Sollecito also said that Guede "always talks about a shadow that could be me and a voice that could be Amanda's." "We've been fighting shadows for four years. Our lives have been destroyed in a subtle and absurd way," he added.

Guede has admitted to being in the house Kercher and Knox shared at the time of the 2007 murder but says he did not take part in the gruesome killing, which shocked this medieval university town and has drawn international attention.

The details of the murder of the Leeds University exchange student remain highly disputed but prosecutors have said they believe Kercher was first sexually assaulted by Guede and then killed by Guede, Sollecito and Knox.

Guede was tried separately from Knox and Sollecito after he agreed to a fast-track trial procedure and his 30-year sentence has since been reduced to 16 years in prison after he expressed remorse over what happened.

"I'm concerned since there have been mistakes in this process all along but I'm confident," Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told AFP as he entered the courtroom for the hearing.

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, a schoolteacher from Seattle in the US state of Washington, also attended ane said that her daughter has been "anxious" ahead of Monday's hearing.

"It's horrible for her to go through this but I think she's glad things are moving along. She feels things are going well," she said.

Commenting on a crucial review by independent experts of the DNA evidence used to convict Knox in the case, which is due to be presented to the court by Thursday, Mellas said: "There's no evidence of her in the room.

"It sounds like the independent experts are professionals and if that's the case, it's all going to come back positive for her," she added.

The killing was the subject of a controversial US television film earlier this year starring US actress Hayden Panettiere and Kercher's family have spoken of their trauma as the case is once again dragged into the spotlight.

Knox and Sollecito who got a 25-year sentence, were convicted in large part because of traces of Knox's DNA found on a knife belonging to Sollecito and believed to have killed Kercher as well as Sollecito's DNA on a bra clasp.

For the appeal, fresh DNA tests were ordered on both items.

At a hearing this month, a convicted child killer and a mobster told the court that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the 21-year-old's death.

Mario Alessi, convicted of killing a child, said that in fact a friend of Guede had killed the Briton to silence her after she resisted a sexual assault.

The convict said Guede had spoken to him about the case during an exercise session at Viterbo prison where they shared a cell.

Camorra crime family boss Luciano Aviello, meanwhile, accused his own brother, telling the court his sibling killed Kercher in an attempt to steal a painting.

© 2011 AFP

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