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28 March 2015, 05:29
The mother of murdered Leeds University student Meredith Kercher has said she is ``surprised and very shocked'' by an Italian court's decision to overturn the convictions of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
The decision by the supreme Court of Cassation is the final ruling in the case, ending the long legal battle waged by Ms Knox and her ex-boyfriend.
Ms Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in her bedroom in 2007 while studying in Perugia, Italy.
Arline Kercher, Meredith's mother, said she had heard little more about the decision other than the verdict.
She said: ``(I am) a bit surprised, and very shocked, but that is about it at the moment."
``They have been convicted twice so it's a bit odd that it should change now.''
Asked whether she had any plans following the ruling, she said: ``I really don't know at the moment, I haven't got any plans.''
Ms Knox, when asked by reporters what she would say to the Kercher family, said: ``Meredith was my friend. She deserved so much in this life.''
The 27 year old, who was Ms Kercher's flat-mate and a student from Seattle in the US, and Mr Sollecito, Ms Knox's then Italian boyfriend, spent four years in jail for the murder but were acquitted on appeal in 2011.
Ms Knox returned to the US before an appeal court threw out the acquittal and reinstated her and Mr Sollecito's guilty verdicts last year.
But Italy's highest court yesterday overturned last year's convictions and declined to order another trial,
Ms Knox also told reporters outside her family home in Seattle she was ``full of joy''.
``Right now I'm still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that's been given to me,'' she said.
She added she was thankful ``for the justice I've received and for the support I've had from everyone - from my family, from my friends, to strangers. I'm so grateful to have my life back''.
As to her future, she added: ``I don't know. I'm still absorbing the present moment, which is full of joy.''
Earlier, in a statement, she said: ``The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal.''
Following the court's decision, Ms Knox's lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said: ``Finished! It couldn't be better than this.''
Ms Knox awaited for the verdict in her home town of Seattle. Mr Sollecito, 31, had his travel documents seized while the court proceedings were continuing.
Mr Dalla Vedova said he had called Ms Knox to tell her the news, but said she could not speak through her tears.
``She was crying because she was so happy,'' he said.
Francesco Maresca, the lawyer for the Ms Kercher's family, was disappointed by the ruling. He said: ``I think that it's a defeat for the Italian justice system.''
The judges will release the reasons for their decision within 90 days after concluding that a conviction could not be supported by the evidence.
Mr Maresca said earlier this week: ``The interest of the family is to arrive to the end of this trial. They want to be able to remember Meredith outside of the courtroom.''
Prosecutors claimed Ms Kercher, a Leeds University student, was the victim of a drug-fuelled sex game gone wrong.
But Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito consistently protested their innocence and claimed they were not in the apartment the night she died.
Rudy Guede, a drug dealer, is serving a 16-year sentence over her death.
Ms Knox said last year she would become a ``fugitive'' if convicted and would have to be taken back ``kicking and screaming'' to Italy.
Last month she announced her engagement to 27-year-old musician and school friend Colin Sutherland, who wrote to her while she was in jail.
A family friend of Ms Knox, who has spoken on the phone to her family at their Seattle home since the ruling, told BBC Radio 5 live that ``everybody is very happy to see this finished, so they can get on with their lives''.
Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State University in Idaho, worked on the DNA evidence for Ms Knox's defence team.
He said of her: ``I imagine she is feeling a lot better - she was under tremendous stress before this, and I think it was really starting to wear on Amanda. She's trying to start her life as a young woman, so hopefully this will be a really wonderful change and a new day for them and for Rafaele and his folks.
``I hope the Kerchers can find peace as well. It's just been an up and down thing for everyone for so long.''
He also criticised the investigators in Italy, saying: ``The evidence in this case clearly points to one perpetrator. The only DNA they found was the victim's and Rudy Guede's, and that should have been open and shut.
``The fact that they persisted in accusing two people against whom there was such slim evidence was really just a very bad way to continue with the case. It's fine to start with a hunch but you've got to drop it when you see the bad data.''