Meredith Kercher murder jury retires

The jury trying Meredith Kercher murder suspects Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito retired today to consider its verdicts.

American Knox, 22, from Seattle, and her Italian former lover Sollecito, 25, are accused by prosecutors of killing the Leeds University student in Perugia, Italy, after what allegedly started as a sex game.

As the end of the long trial approached, Knox's sister, Deanna Knox, said she was nervous about the outcome and had spent a sleepless night.

She said: "The time is going to go by so slowly after we leave here today and the wait is going to be awful but from what I've seen of the jury I wouldn't think it will be really, really long.

"I know they're going to take their time and really, really think about it but it has been a year long and I think they pretty much know what's going on by now so hopefully it comes out our way.

"I've got all my hopes in it and all I want to do is take her home so I've got a good feeling about it. I'm still nervous, but good feeling."

Knox's father, Curt Knox, said too that he was hopeful.

"I believe in her innocence," he said. "I believe our attorneys have more than presented evidence that would show that she's innocent.

"The judge and the jury have a big task ahead of them. They've got two kids' life in their hands."

The semi-naked body of Miss Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit in her room in Perugia in November 2007.

She had been sharing a house with Knox, who was also a student, on her year abroad in the Umbrian hilltop town.

Prosecutors say that Sollecito held her down while Knox stabbed her to death.

Miss Kercher's family is due to arrive in Perugia in time for verdicts, which are expected to be delivered today or tomorrow.

A third person, Rudy Guede, 22, from the Ivory Coast, has already been convicted of murder and sexual violence and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

But prosecutors say he was only one of three killers who acted together, under "the fumes of drugs and possibly alcohol".

Knox addressed the court in Perugia, Italy, yesterday in a voice trembling with emotion.

Fighting back tears, she told the eight jurors in Italian that she did not want to be branded an assassin.

But she showed no anger towards the prosecutors who have requested a life sentence for her.

She said: "They are trying to do their job, even if they can't understand."

Knox, who has been behind bars for two years, told the court people often asked her how she managed to stay so calm.

She said: "The first thing to say is that I am not calm. I am afraid of being defined as something I am not and by actions that are not mine.

"I'm afraid of having the mask of a murderer forced on to my skin."

She said she was "confused, sad, frustrated" about being kept in jail for two years.

But she remained "confident and certain in what I know," she said.

She had tried, she added, to find the positive side of the situation.

"I don't get depressed," she said. "In these situations, I grieve and try to find the positives in important moments."

Sollecito also addressed the court yesterday, saying that no motive had emerged for his alleged role in the murder.

He said: "I am not violent, I never have been. I wasn't at the house (where Miss Kercher lived and died) that night."

But prosecutor Manuela Comodi argued that "we live in an age of violence with no motive".

She often asked herself why Knox and Sollecito murdered Miss Kercher, she said, but suggested that the reason was a mystery.

"We don't know what sparks these things," she said.

She cited DNA evidence allegedly linking Sollecito to the crime and wrapped a white bra around a microphone in the courtroom to demonstrate how his DNA could have ended up on Miss Kercher's bra strap and not on the rest of the bra.

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, vowed the family would continue to battle for her daughter's freedom if she was convicted.

"If she is found guilty we will carry on fighting," she said.