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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

She was calm, serene and looking forward to going home, says Amanda Knox's lawyer as smiling American leaves Rome airport

-Thanks Italians 'who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope'
-Family spotted at Rome airport bound for London to connect with U.S. flight
-Knox thought to have spent night with them in Perugia before she flies home to Seattle this morning
-Co-defendant and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito also freed on appeal
-Lawyer insists American student holds 'no bitterness' towards Italy
-'Back to square one': Kercher family still in shock at press conference

By Nick Pisa, David Jones and Paul Bentley

Freed: Amanda Knox smiles at other passengers at Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Fiumicino this morning before boarding a flight to Seattle via London

Amanda Knox prepared to fly out of Italy and back to the U.S. today after being dramatically cleared of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

Worried Amanda, 24, was taken to the airport police station to sign various forms - even anxiously calling her lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova to check everything was fine for her to go through immigration and board the British Airways flight to Seattle via London Heathrow.

The American tried her best to stay out of view as she arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport and tried to avoid journalists waiting for her outside since dawn.

Today Mr Dalla Vedova said: 'I spoke with her briefly. She was a bit worried about going through immigration and although her passport was valid she was still a little anxious as she was held in the airport police station for paperwork procedures.

Going home: Looking pale, Knox smiles as she is escorted down an escalator at the airport

'She was calm, serene and looking forward to going home and just spending time with her friends and family. She wants to get on with her life.

'She is a clever and intelligent girl who has been through a lot - one day in prison is bad enough but four years is even worse.'

While waiting for their flight Knox's parents were in the VIP lounge at Fiumicino Airport and they were then joined by Knox who onlookers described was 'looking tired and drawn'.

Flight: Knox hugs a man as she carries her hand luggage through the airport

Check in: The 24-year-old talks to a BA staff member as she prepares to put baggage on to the flight

Security: Wearing a grey cardigan and black leggings, Knox walks through the shopping area as she heads for her gate

Dressed in black leggings, grey cardigan and a dark top she was pulling a large black suitcase as she left the airport police office to join her parents.

The family had been driven to Rome from Perugia late last night in two black Mercedes one a people carrier which had been provided by the Italo-American Foundation whose president MP Rocco Girlanda had written a book about Knox in prison and campaigned for her innocence.

Mr Ghirlana was one of the people who was with her at Capanne prison late on Monday night when she was released and he accompanied her and the rest of the Knox family back to Rome where they were put up in what was described as 'safe accommodation'.

Amanda Knox's father Curt, second from left, and other members of the family check in at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport this morning. Amanda is believed to have checked-in privately

Amanda's mother Edda and her step-father Chris Mellas also checked in at Fiumicino Airport this morning

Corrado Maria Daclon, a spokesman for the foundation, said: 'Amanda is really very exhausted after spending four years in prison. We hugged each other warmly as she was let out.

'She also asked me to thank the Italian public who have supported her publicly throughout her ordeal.

'She said she could not have coped with being unjustly jailed for four years if it had not been for their support - they gave her strength and always said they believed in her innocence.

'I have remained silent throughout this affair but now someone needs to shoulder the responsibility for what happened.'

He added: 'This has been one of the most serious errors of justice that we have had in our country and we have had many.'

Mr Dalla Vedova also spoke of this and said: 'This case should never have come to court. Will there be an investigation? I doubt it.

'Amanda will now have some time in Seattle and then get on with her life and her family will also want to get back to theirs.'

Before she left Italy, Knox said she felt 'no bitterness' towards the country that had kept her in jail for four years.

Corrado Maria Daclon, said: 'Despite everything she has gone through the last few years and all the attacks against her right up until the final stages of the appeal, where a conviction was sought with no evidence - she told me she feels no bitterness.

Homeward bound: The British Airways flight carrying Amanda Knox and her family leaves Fiumicino Airport in Rome en route to Seattle via London Heathrow

(From left) Meredith Kercher's mother Arline, brother Lyle and sister Stephanie Kercher give a press conference this morning. Lyle said it was 'back to square one' in the search to find out what 'truly happened' following the dramatic acquittal last night of Knox and Sollecito

Free: Knox leaves Perugia's court in a car after hearing the verdict which overturned her murder conviction

'Her words have always been positive, she is tired but full of hope.

'Only a few days ago in jail she told me that she felt pain for those who responded to hate with hatred because she feels this makes people barbarians.

'She is certainly very drained but even after all this time she does not have any resentment or animosity.

'She is a simple girl, always ready to help with great humanity and sensibility, very different to how she has been described.'

Knox is looking at a lucrative future with million-dollar TV and book deal offers.

But the family of Meredith Kercher, 21, remained stunned by the verdict and searching for answers.

Brother Lyle, speaking at a press conference, said the family was still trying to understand how a decision that 'was so certain two years ago has been so emphatically overturned'.

Cleared: Knox bursts into tears after she was sensationally cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher

Life-changing: Knox has already served four years in prison for the student's murder

Disbelief: Knox weeps following the verdict that overturns her conviction and acquits her of murdering her British room mate Meredith Kercher

Overwhelmed: Knox is dragged away in tears after the sensational appeal verdict

Last night, there had been screams in court as the verdict was delivered.

Knox burst into tears and hugged her parents Curt and Edda Mellas - as just feet away the family of Meredith could only look on in amazement.

A near riot erupted on the streets outside the courthouse in Perugia.

Her victorious defence team were surrounded by the mob who yelled: 'Shame! Assassins! Justice has been sold down the river!'

Hundreds had gathered to await the verdict, the majority convinced she and Raffaele Sollecito, 27, were guilty.

Referring to reports that Knox would be whisked to America by a TV network offering $1million for her story, they shouted: 'Jump on your private plane and go home!'

The American has served four years of a 26-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2009 of the brutal sex murder of Meredith, 21, who was found semi naked with her throat cut in her bedroom of the house she shared in Perugia, Italy.

As the incredible scenes unfolded, Meredith’s stunned mother, Arline, and her elder sister Stephanie remained in court, staring stonily ahead and seemingly unable to comprehend that the woman they are convinced is a cold-blooded killer had been released.

'As you could see from the images, Amanda was a nervous wreck who just collapsed.

She wasn't able to say anything other than "thank you" in a flood of tears,' said one of her lawyers, Maria Del Grosso.

Knox’s sister Deanna, 22, stood triumphant amid the baying crowd and added: 'We are thankful that the nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit.'

Overcome: Knox's mother Edda Mellas was clearly emotional after the verdict

Relieved: Knox's Italian lawyer Maria Del Grosso, left, and the American's sister Deanna, right, moments after the verdict at Perugia's Court of Appeal

It's over: Knox's father Curt, left, and step-father Chris Mellas, right, watch as Amanda's sister Deanna and mother Edda Mellas celebrate

Emotional: Knox's aunt Janet Huff, left, and her mother Edda Mellas, right, weep after the verdict

She also thanked the thousands who had supported Knox’s freedom campaign on websites and blogs, waging a vicious war of words with those who believe her guilty.

It was an extraordinary climax to a case that has bitterly divided opinion from the outset – some compared yesterday’s ugly scenes to those seen during the witch trials in Perugia in medieval times.

At her original trial in December 2009, Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, 27, her ex-lover, were found guilty of murdering and sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively.

Computer studies graduate Sollecito was also freed today by the eight member jury after 11-hours of deliberations.

Knox was photographed this evening, being driven out of the gates of Capanne Prison outside of Perugia.

She had returned briefly to the Perugia jail where she had been held to complete formalities before being escorted to an unknown destination in a black Mercedes with shaded windows.

Led away: Raffaele Sollecito smiles as he is taken from the court by Italian police officers following the verdict

Overjoyed: Around a dozen Knox supporters shouted 'She's free!' and 'We did it!' as they watched proceedings from a hotel in Seattle

Shocked: Members of the Knox family including her father (in the blue shirt) and sister (centre) react following the judge's decision

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