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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

'It's back to square one': Family of Meredith Kercher accept court verdict on Knox ... but say agonising search for the truth goes on

-Stephanie Kercher, student's sister: 'Until the truth comes out we can't forgive anybody because no one has admitted anything'
-David Cameron: 'I think everyone today should be thinking about them [Meredith's family] and how they feel'

By Nick Pisa

Stoic: Meredith Kercher's family (from left) mother Arline, brother Lyle and sister Stephanie at a press conference this morning. They said they accepted the appeal court's decision but questions still remained over the murder

Meredith Kercher's family showed incredible stoicism today as they faced the world's media and said they accepted the Italian court's decision to clear Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of her murder.

However Lyle Kercher, the murdered student's brother, said questions remained about what really happened to Meredith that November night in 2007 and it was 'back to square one'.

He said: 'While we accept the decision that was handed down yesterday and respect the court and the Italian justice system, we do find that we are now left obviously looking at this again and thinking how a decision that was so certain two years ago has been so emphatically overturned now.

Meredith's sister Stephanie said the family could not begin to forgive anyone until they found out what had really happened

'There is, of course, a third defendant - Rudy Guede - who is convicted, has been appealed and has been upheld and, at the time, I understand the court agreed that he was not acting alone.

'Of course, if the two who were released yesterday were not the guilty parties, we are now obviously left wondering who is the other person or people, and really, for us, it feels very much almost like back to square one and the search goes on really to find out what truly happened.'

He added that the family believed prosecutors were likely to appeal the verdict.

Meredith's mother, Arline, said the family was still 'absorbing the decision'.

'What happened to my daughter, Meredith, is every parent's nightmare,' she told the press conference.

'Of something so terrible happening, when basically she was in the safest place, her bedroom.

'Nobody is untouched by this.'

And sister Stephanie said the family could not begin to forgive anyone until they found out what had happened.

She said: 'Until the truth comes out we can't forgive anybody because no one has admitted anything.'

Mr Kercher said the family was grateful for the support it had received from well-wishers - including both Italians and Americans.

Meredith's sister Stephanie and mother Arline yesterday afternoon. Today, the family said it was grateful for the support it had received from well-wishers - including both Italians and Americans

He described as 'nonsense' suggestions of a divide between Britain, America and Italy over the crime and said the family had 'full faith' in the Italian justice system.

The family is due to fly back to the UK today, as Knox returns to the U.S. via a transit stop in London.

They have endured four years of the most terrible torment as the murder of their daughter was examined in the minutest detail.

Adding to their pain, the family have told how their simple search for justice has been overshadowed by the circus surrounding Amanda Knox and her appeal.

Meredith's mother and sister later attended the court to hear the verdict against Knox

Moments after the verdict a tearful Amanda Knox is led away before being released

When Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty two years ago, the Kerchers’ legal team had told them it was an open-and-shut case.

That should have been their closure, marking the end of their questions and the beginning of acceptance.

Even as they arrived in Perugia yesterday morning and met with their legal team of Francesco Maresca and Serena Perna, the first question on the lips of Meredith’s mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle was: ‘Are they going to get off? What has happened to all the evidence.’

The Kerchers had always maintained a dignified silence, speaking only a handful of times since Meredith – or Mez as she was known to them – was found dead in November 2007.

But at a press conference before yesterday’s verdict, they described their anger at how Meredith appeared to have been forgotten as the focus moved entirely to Knox.

Stephanie said: ‘It’s been four years now and the focus has shifted for obvious reasons on to the proceedings. Mez has been almost forgotten in all of this. It’s very difficult to keep her memory alive in all this.We want to find the truth, we want to find justice for her. We want to remember Meredith in the city that she loved.

‘Without a final ending it’s very hard to forgive anything at this stage. What has to be remembered is the brutality of what happened that night. Everything that Meredith felt that night, the fear, the terror. She didn’t deserve that, no one deserves that.’

When Stephanie was asked if she had any idea of why her sister had been killed she could say only: ‘No, I’ve no idea why.

‘The reasons for that I couldn’t even begin to understand. Meredith was such a lovely, lovely girl. She was always there for everyone.’

And the 28-year-old it would be ‘very difficult to forgive anything at this stage’.

‘I think that everyone needs to remember… the brutality of what actually happened that night and everything Meredith must have felt, everything she went through,’ she said. ‘The fear, the terror and not knowing why. And she didn’t deserve it that.

Nobody deserved that. She loved this place. It is a beautiful city. Even being here now, it is (beautiful).

‘It is very difficult to know what happened that night without knowing the truth and that is why we are here.’

Lyle told how the family had dealt with the initial conviction and subsequent publicity.

‘Four years ago we pressed for a conviction and we got what we were looking for,’ he said. ‘We said at the time it wasn’t a case of a celebration because three young people are having their lives taken away. It’s hard to talk of forgiveness.’

Speaking of the media interest and also the substantial efforts of Knox’s father Curt to campaign for his daughter’s release, he said: ‘I think everyone realises this is a very unusual case and has generated such a lot of interest.

‘On the one hand, as any loving parent, they have put a lot of attention into fighting for her innocence and what resources they have, but for our legal team it gets hard for them battling against a very large PR machine.’

Like thousands of young Britons each year, Meredith had set off in 2007 for an adventure during her 12 months abroad studying. The 21-year-old, from Coulsdon in Surrey, was reading European Studies at Leeds University and was sharing a house with Knox, a foreign exchange student from Seattle.

When Lyle was asked yesterday how best the family remembered his sister, he said: ‘It’s as if she has gone away on an extended break and we haven’t seen her come back as yet.’

But they remain without the resolution they seek, despite the conviction of drifter Rudy Guede, 24.

I did not kill, I did not rape... I was not there

Amanda Knox made an emotional final plea in the court room yesterday morning. Speaking in the fluent Italian she has learned in jail, she frequently paused for breath and at times appeared overwhelmed, but otherwise made a confident ten-minute statement to the judges and jurors who would decide her fate:

'Esteemed people of the court, it has been said many times that I am a person different to what I am.

I am the same person I was four years ago, the same person – the only thing that distinguishes me from four years ago is the four years that I have suffered.

In four years I have lost a friend in a brutal and unexplained way.

My faith in the police has been betrayed.

I have had to face accusations, injustice and suggestions without foundation and I am paying with my life for something that I did not do.

I am not what they say I am. I am not perverse, violent, disrespectful towards life, people. These things do not apply to me and I have not done the things that have been suggested.

I did not kill, I did not rape, I did not steal. I was not there. I was not present at this crime.

I had never faced such tragedy, suffering. I didn’t know how to tackle it, how to interpret it.

When we learned Meredith was dead, we just could not believe it. How was this possible?

Then I felt scared. A person who I was sharing my life with, who had the bedroom next to me, she was killed in our house and if I was there that night I could have been killed. I wasn’t there. I was at Raffaele’s. I did not have anyone and thankfully he was there, I had no one for me. I called my aunt but at that moment it was only him.

I had a sense of duty towards justice, the authorities who I put my trust in.

Overcome: Miss Knox had earlier told the court that she has too much respect for life to be a killer

They were there to find the guilty and to protect us. I put my faith in them absolutely. I made myself available for them in those days but I was betrayed – the night of 5/6 November [2007] I was pressured, stressed and manipulated.

I have never done what they say I have done. It is not as they say it was.

I had a good relationship with all my flatmates. I was messy, carefree but we had a good relationship, we were all ready to help each other.

I shared my life with Meredith. We had a friendship, she was worried for me when I went to work, she was always gentle with me.

Meredith was killed and I have always wanted justice for her. I am not fleeing from the truth and have never fled.

I insist on the truth. I insist after four desperate years for our innocence because it is true. It deserves to be recognised.

I want to go home. I want to return to my life. I don’t want to be punished and deprived of my life, future, for something I have not done because I am innocent.
Raffaele is also innocent.

We deserve our freedom. We have never done anything not to deserve it.

I have so much respect for the court and the attention you have had during this trial.

Thank you. I ask for justice.’



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