A life cut short: Death of a daughter, sister, friend

While the media focused on the accused killers, the story of a murdered young woman often took second place.

Amid the madness of what will always be known as the Knox trial in Perugia, with its slow-motion melodramas, its posturings and the evidence that grew ever more contested and grotesque, there was always one thing that remained unchanged.

That face. Meredith's – the joyful student captured in a split second on Facebook, her happiness one moment in October 2007 made all the more horribly innocent because we know what was to happen to her just a few days later.

For us, those features will eventually fade from memory. But, for her family, that face – and the spirit and life of the girl who inhabited it – will never grow old as it should have done. And yesterday, as her family gave a press conference in the basement of a city hotel, that pain was brought sickeningly home. Father John, mother Arline, brothers John Jr and Lyle, and sister Stephanie sat in a line at a table and spoke, as they have always done – with restraint and a gracious dignity – of the loss they will ever bear.

There was no triumph in their reaction to the conviction late Friday night of Amanda Knox, 22, and Raffaele Sollecito, 25, for the murder of their daughter and sister. As Lyle said, it was not a time for a celebration. Instead they showed a magnanimous sense of sadness that two young people would now be spending a quarter of a century or more behind bars.

Mrs Kercher quietly reminded her family that a third young person had also met the same fate – 22-year-old Rudy Guede, who was convicted of the murder and sexual violence last October and jailed for 30 years. Lyle even referred to his sister's killer using the word "gentleman". Meredith's brother John said: "Mez still leaves a big hole in our lives. Her presence is missed every time we meet up as a family. She is very much still a part our lives. People often associated Mez with a tragic event, but we would prefer not to remember her that way. We would like to concentrate on the 21 good years we had with her."

And they were good years. Brought up in Coulsdon, Surrey, on the edge of the North Downs, she was a bright, conscientious child who later attended the prestigious Old Palace School for Girls in Croydon. Shahleena Raza, 25, a homeopathy student who went to school with Meredith and Stephanie, remembers the special bond the sisters had. "I used to ring Steph and they sounded identical," she said. "Mez would answer and she was always really sweet and chatty. I remember going to their house and her older brothers cooked us all lunch. They made a big deal out of it and it was really special. Mez and Steph shared everything – there was such warmth between them, no bickering like you usually get between sisters."

She read, wrote poetry and stories, took ballet, gymnastics and karate classes, worked at Gatwick airport to save for her studies, ran the Race for Life to raise money for cancer research. She was "always laughing", and, according to her brother's eulogy at her funeral, always 20 minutes late. "You could set your watch by her," he said. And friends could rely on her. One, identified only as "Yondie" from south London, thanked Meredith in an online tribute to her for letting her stay at her house when times were "difficult".

She went to Leeds University, and, from there, in her third year, to Perugia for a year's study, arriving in the autumn of 2007.

That late October, she went to a Halloween party, and one of her closest friends, Helen Power, 22, was with her. She said: "You only had to meet her once to be struck by her beauty, quick wit and her infectious smile." It was a time of year Meredith had always loved. Her father said: "As a youngster she would make a costume from bin liners, put candles in the pumpkins with faces, tie them to sticks and then we would visit neighbours."

Close to both parents, Meredith called the day after the Halloween party to tell him she loved him. "I was in the bank and we spoke for two minutes," he said. It was the last time they would. Not long afterwards, he heard a British student had been murdered in Perugia. He rang Meredith a dozen or more times. There was no reply. After an hour, he called a newspaper. Two hours later, they called him back with the name of the victim. It was Meredith. That was how he found out.

In June, her mother told the court: "Her death was unbelievable, unreal. In many ways it still is. I still look for her. It's not just her death but it's the nature of it, the brutality of it, the violence of it and the great sorrow it's brought everyone. We will never, never get over it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing