Day of drama in Perugia:

A family still fighting for the real victim to be remembered

 

Back in the city where her sister Meredith was murdered, it was testament to the decency and composure of Meredith Kercher's sister, Stephanie, that she could still say of Perugia: "It's nice to be here."

For most families, four years of heartache would surely have obscured forever the beauty of this Umbrian hilltop town – just as the Kerchers' suffering has often been shrouded by the hype surrounding Amanda Knox.

After the verdict, the Kerchers sat talking quietly together. After the families of Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito spoke of their relief at their freedom, Meredith's mother, Arline, was led slowly from court, looking shattered, to a waiting car and whisked away.

Addressing the press before the verdict, Stephanie and her brother Lyle exhibited the dignity that has marked their public profile during their quest for justice. They said that it was too early for forgiveness. Stephanie described the difficulty of keeping her sister's memory alive amidst the media attention around Knox.

Lyle said it was important to remember "the brutality of what happened that night, everything that Meredith must have felt that night, everything she went through, the fear and the terror, and not knowing why".

But they also refused to exhibit anger towards Knox, acknowledging that she had a right to appeal against her conviction.

The Kerchers' lawyer, Francesco Maresca, has been at pains to emphasise the stresses that a drawn-out legal process in a foreign country has placed upon the family, which also includes Meredith's father and a second brother, both named John.

Arline has been suffering from an unspecified illness for some time; it was reported during the original trial that she required "heavy sedation" to cope with the stress.

The costs of legal fees and travel, estimated to have reached £200,000 by the volunteer-run website True Justice For Meredith Kercher, have placed another burden on Meredith's divorced parents and their three surviving children. The Kerchers have not yet received any of the €4.4m (£3.7m) they were awarded in compensation following the trial in 2009.

But yesterday Arline paid tribute to the Italian legal system to which they have grown only too accustomed. "What is good is that in the previous trial the judge actually issued a 400-page document which detailed how they got to that result, what their thinking was, why they got there," she said.

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