Meredith murder suspect 'argued with her moments before death'

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The Independent Online

The man convicted of murdering British student Meredith Kercher in Italy today claimed he heard her arguing with housemate and suspect Amanda Knox minutes before her death.

Rudy Guede who is appealing against his conviction, said he had tried to save Miss Kercher after he heard a loud scream coming from her bedroom at the house in Perugia.

Guede was convicted last year during a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing the 21-year-old exchange student from Coulsdon, Surrey.

Guede's appeal began as the trial of American student Knox, and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, continued.

Knox and Sollecito, accused of murder and sexual violence, deny wrongdoing and a verdict is expected next month.

Guede, from the Ivory Coast, told the appeal court today he went to the house where Miss Kercher, an exchange student, was killed on 1 November, 2007, with her, but he then fell ill and went to the bathroom.

"Then, I heard Meredith's and Amanda's voices, arguing about some money missing," he said. "I was listening to music and at one point I heard a very loud scream."

Guede said he rushed into Miss Kercher's bedroom where he saw an unidentified man who tried to attack him. Backing down into the hallway, Guede said he heard the man say "'Let's go, there's a black man in the house."'

Guede said he heard footsteps leaving the house and looked out of the window where he saw a silhouette that he later identified as Knox's.

Guede then said he tried to rescue Miss Kercher who was lying in a pool of blood after her throat was slit. He claimed he took her in his arms but then panicked and left the house.

"I am not the one who took her life," he told the court, "I don't know if I could have saved her. That's the only thing I can apologise for."

Guede's appeals trial is separate from that of Knox and Sollecito, and his evidence cannot be included in the proceedings against them, lawyers said.

Guede went in the witness box during Knox and Sollecito's trial but refused to answer prosecutors' questions or offer any spontaneous testimony.

Prosecutors say Miss Kercher was killed during what began as a sex game. Sollecito held her by the shoulders while Knox touched her with a knife. Prosecutors say Guede tried to sexually assault Miss Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.

Guede was arrested in Germany shortly after the killing on an international arrest warrant and was later extradited to Italy.

Authorities began looking for Guede after his fingerprint was found in bloodstains on Miss Kercher's pillow, and other DNA traces were recovered on toilet paper and on the victim's body.

Knox and Sollecito's lawyers say Guede was the sole attacker.

The 22-year-old Knox maintains she spent the night of the murder at Sollecito's house elsewhere in Perugia.

Her 25-year-old Italian ex-boyfriend Sollecito has said he was home working at his computer that night. He said he does not remember if Knox spent the whole night with him or just part of it.