Page last updated at 23:24 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Profile: Meredith Kercher


Meredith Kercher was in a music video shortly before she moved to Italy - Video courtesy of Universal Records

Former lovers Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been found guilty of murdering British student Meredith Kercher after she refused to take part in a drug-fuelled sex session at her flat in Italy in November 2007.

The 21-year-old, from Coulsdon, Surrey, had just started a one-year course under the Erasmus programme of international exchanges to study modern history, political theories and the history of cinema.

Before leaving for Italy at the end of August 2007, she had been reading European studies at the University of Leeds.

Described as sociable and loving by friends and family, pictures show her smiling broadly.

Slow death

But within three months she was dead in the flat she rented with Knox, in the Via Della Pergola in the central Italian city of Perugia.

Police found her semi-naked body covered by a duvet. Her bedroom door was locked, but the window had been broken.

Officers had entered the flat to return Miss Kercher's mobile phone, which had been found abandoned in a garden by a neighbour.

Miss Kercher's body showed signs of bruising, and tests revealed evidence of sexual activity shortly before her death - but a post-mortem examination could not confirm she had been raped.

She was one of the most beautiful, intelligent, witty and caring people you could wish to meet
Miss Kercher's family statement

Among the police's early theories was that Miss Kercher had been attacked by a heroin addict, because the flat was near a car park used by dealers - or that her death had been the result of a botched burglary.

But police soon arrested Knox, 22, and Sollecito, 25, and prosecutors accused them of killing Miss Kercher because she had refused to take part in an extreme sex session.

A pathologist's report said her death was slow and painful because despite the fact that her throat was cut, the blow did not sever her carotid artery.

Miss Kercher's family said she was a hard worker, but also enjoyed socialising with her friends and family.

In a statement after her death, they said: "As anyone who had been lucky enough to have known her would testify, she was one of the most beautiful, intelligent, witty and caring people you could wish to meet."

Silent vigil

Speaking of her trip to Italy, Miss Kercher's parents Arline and John said she was "excited at the prospect of spending the year studying there to improve her language skills, make new friends and immerse herself in the culture".

Her parents have three other children, Meredith's sister Stephanie and brothers John and Lyle.

Before going to university, Miss Kercher - known among friends and family as Mez - attended the £10,000-a-year private Old Palace School in Croydon, near London.

After her death, more than 100 students bowed their heads in silence at a vigil at Leeds University.

Miss Kercher's brutal and mysterious death has fed intense media speculation in both Europe and America.

One man, Rudy Hermann Guede, 22, who has joint Italian and Ivory Coast nationality, had already been convicted of her murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is appealing against his conviction.

Knox and Sollecito are also thought likely to appeal against their convictions. They have been sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively.

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