Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Saturday, 5 December 2009

'She-devil' Knox and lover guilty of Kercher murder

By Dominic Hughes
BBC News, Perugia

Amanda Knox stood in a silent court room to hear the verdict, head bowed.

But as the judge read out the jury's decision she turned and buried her face in her lawyers chest and started to sob uncontrollably.

Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox is now expected to appeal against her conviction

She was still crying as she was led from court, facing a sentence of 26 years in prison for the murder of the woman she described as her friend - the British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

Knox's former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito - also found guilty and sentenced to 25 years - was more composed.

Both are likely to appeal - Amanda Knox's father has already vowed to fight on.

Additionally, Knox and Sollecito have been told to pay compensation to the Kercher family - a million euros to her father, a million euros to her mother and 800,000 euros to each of her three siblings.

Both also have to pay legal fees.

'She-devil'

The prosecution had built its case on DNA evidence linking both defendants to the attack.

They argued that Meredith Kercher was an unwilling participant in a sex game that escalated into violence.

Prosecutors played heavily on Amanda Knox's personality, her sexual habits, her drug-taking and party lifestyle.

A vociferous campaign was started in Knox's home state of Washington to support her

They painted a picture of the American student as a she-devil, using terms that would probably not be allowed in a UK or US court.

They said they were exposing Knox as manipulative and promiscuous - but her supporters argued she was the victim of a vicious character assassination.

Much of the evidence centred around the murder weapon which the prosecution said was a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's apartment.

It had Knox's DNA on the handle and a tiny amount of Miss Kercher's DNA on the tip.

But the defence tried to cast doubt on the scientific evidence, saying it wasn't reliable enough to support a conviction.

For example, the DNA trace said to be from Miss Kercher was so small it was destroyed in testing.

The defence also said the knife didn't match two of the major wounds suffered by the Leeds University student.

Huge relief

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito argued that instead Rudy Guede - a drifter already convicted of Kercher's murder in an earlier trial - acted alone.

Rudy Guede
Rudy Guede had already been convicted of Kercher's murder

But while he admitted being in the house he has always denied any involvement in the murder and he too is appealing against his conviction.

The jury of three men and three women, along with the two trial judges, rejected Knox and Sollecito's version of events.

It is a verdict that will come as a huge relief to Meredith Kercher's family, who all along have supported the prosecutors' case.

But it will be a bitter blow to the supporters of Amanda Knox, both here in Perugia and in the United Sates.

A vociferous campaign was started in her home state of Washington to support her and it can be expected that will continue.



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