Kercher murder appeal: Drama in Perugia's courtroom

Amanda Knox cries in Perugia's courtroom after the verdict Knox was rushed from the court after the verdict, crying uncontrollably

Beneath fading frescos on the walls of the court, including that of the Virgin Mary, Amanda Knox was led in to hear the late evening verdict.

She was flanked by guards wearing blue berets and carrying pistols on their white belts.

With a black hooded coat covering her now thin and frail-looking frame, the 24-year-old American was crying even before learning her fate.

Her lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, Luciano Ghirga, and Maria del Grosso clustered round her, looking close to tears themselves.

Ms Grosso crouched low at Knox's feet, clearly trying to comfort her as the seconds ticked down to the court's decision being revealed.

Just a few metres to her left, along the wooden courtroom bench sat Raffaele Sollecito, her former boyfriend and co-accused.

Dressed in the same brown and orange shirt he has worn for many of his recent court appearances, the 27 year-old son of a doctor showed few nerves compared to Knox.

Tears of relief

The pair were in court perhaps no more than 10 minutes before the lead Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman entered the court from a door towards the back.

Start Quote

We are grateful Amanda's nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit”

End Quote Deanna Knox Amanda's sister

Filling the bench to his left and right were the jurors in the case, each wearing a sash in the colours of the Italian flag.

The court was packed to such an extent that officials had removed the chairs from the public gallery to accommodate the scores of journalists (and Knox and Mr Sollecito supporters) who had crammed in to see the climax of the case.

As the verdict was read out, Knox began sobbing all the harder, with tears of relief pouring down her cheeks.

Mr Sollecito looked stunned; almost in disbelief that after more than 1,400 days in prison he was to go free.

There were loud cheers from the family and friends of Amanda Knox - her mother and father amongst them - when they realised that the words spoken in Italian by the judge meant their long campaign to secure the American student's freedom had ended in joy.

Judge Hellman had to appeal for quiet so he could finish reading the ruling.

Knox was then rushed from the court, still crying uncontrollably. The security guards moved at pace, whisking her away from the room still reeling with the outcome.

After she had gone, her lawyers and family continued hugging each other, with tears aplenty amongst them too.

Courage

Meredith Kercher's family had arrived in Perugia in time to attend the court and hear the verdict. They left digesting the news that only one man, Rudy Guede, now stands convicted of the 21-year-old student's killing.

Outside the court a vast crowd had gathered, many of whom were shouting, clearly unhappy with the reversal of Knox and Mr Sollecito's acquittal.

When Raffaele Sollecito's lawyer Guila Bongiorno emerged, some cried out "Shame, shame!" in her direction.

But it was left to an exhilarated looking Deanna Knox - Amanda's sister - to have the final word.

Standing on the court steps, she spoke of her sister's relief: "We are grateful Amanda's nightmare is over. She suffered for four years for a crime she did not commit."

"We are grateful for the support we have received all over the world and we are thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth. We now respectfully ask for the space Amanda and our family need to recover from this ordeal," she added.

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