Italy’s highest court has acquitted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of the murder of Leeds University student Meredith Kercher.
In a final decision following seven years of trials, judges concluded that a guilty verdict ‘could not be supported by the evidence’. They declined to order another trial.
The 27-year-old American and her former boyfriend saw their convictions annulled following ten hours of deliberations in Rome on Friday.
The news brings an apparent close to the legal saga, which has seen three previous decisions over the murder in 2007.
Knox and Sollecito were originally convicted in 2009, but were cleared two years later after judges cited unreliable DNA evidence. The pair’s conviction was upheld in a retrial last year when prosecutors argued that important evidence had been disregarded. The murder charges have now been overturned.
Both Knox and Sollecito have pleaded their innocence throughout the investigation. They have served four years in prison for the killing.
Twenty-one-year-old Meredith Kercher’s body was found in the flat she shared with Knox in the Italian university town of Perugia in 2007. She had suffered multiple stab wounds and had been sexually assaulted. The Leeds student had been three months into a study placement at the University for Foreigners as part of her European Studies degree when she died.
Speaking after the verdict, Amanda Knox said, ‘I am tremendously relieved and grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court of Italy. The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal.’
The court ruled in 2014 that Knox and Sollecito had acted alongside Ivory Coast-born man Rudy Hermann Guede, whom it was believed could not have acted alone to murder Kercher. However, Guede is now the only person found guilty of the killing, and he is currently almost half way through a 16-year sentence.
In a statement, the Kercher family said, ‘Emotions are naturally raw at this stage. The decision came as a shock but was an outcome we knew was possible, even if it wasn’t what we expected.’
‘We now understand this decision to be definitive and the end of what has been a long and difficult process for all concerned’.
‘We believe we will learn the full reasoning behind the decision in the coming months but for now, we need some time to take this in and remember Meredith, the victim at the heart of this’.
Image courtesy of Filippo Monteforte / Tiziana Fab / AFP