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Shoe print discovered under victim 'links Knox to crime scene'

Perugia court hears first direct evidence against US student accused of murdering her British flatmate

A woman's bloody shoe print found under the body of the murdered British student Meredith Kercher was of a size compatible with her American flatmate Amanda Knox, a Perugia court was told yesterday. Defence lawyers in the murder trial acknowledged that it was the first piece of evidence that might link the American student to the crime scene, but denied flatly that the print was hers.

The statement was the most arresting part of yesterday's evidence, during which both Ms Knox and her co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, her former lover, claimed they had been mistreated during the police interrogation after Ms Kercher's murder in the Italian city in November 2007.

Denying police claims to the contrary, Ms Knox said: "I was treated as a person only after I had given my statements ... That was when they offered me drinks, allowed me go to the lavatory and so on."

The statements to the court came after a police inspector, Rita Ficarra, told the court how Ms Knox came to incriminate an innocent man. On the night of 5 November 2007, Ms Knox had come to the police station with Mr Sollecito, who had been called in for another interrogation.

Ms Ficarra said she came out of the lift into the waiting room of the city's Flying Squad at 11pm to find the student "showing off her gymnastic ability". "I told her off," said the officer. "I told her it was neither the time or place" for such things. She said she also rebuked Ms Knox later for telling the police lies in earlier interviews, for example denying that she smoked cannabis. "She was treated with severity when the circumstances demanded and kindly when they demanded it," she said, denying Ms Knox had been beaten.

Subsequently Ms Knox gave Ms Ficarra the names of people who had visited the flat she shared with Ms Kercher, including "a South African" she had met at a party in the flat underneath the one she shared with Ms Kercher. She said she didn't know his name or phone number and had never seen him again after that occasion. Ms Ficarra indicated that this person was Rudy Guede, originally from Ivory Coast, who is now serving a 30-year sentence for his role in the murder.

Ms Ficarra learnt that Mr Sollecito had changed his original story, according to which he and Ms Knox had spent the night together. As a result, Ms Knox's alibi had evaporated. Ms Ficarra and Ms Knox went through Ms Knox's mobile phone, finding a sent SMS message that read: "See you later." "It sounded like a date," Ms Ficarra said. "Who is this person?" she asked Ms Knox. "Did you go out with him?"

The policewoman said Ms Knox gave her the name of Patrick Lumumba, the manager of a bar where the American worked part time, adding that the student clutched her head and burst into tears when she was accused of being the "author of the crime", admitting that she was in the house at the time of the murder. "She said it was Lumumba who killed Meredith," Ms Ficarra testified. Mr Lumumba has been cleared of any involvement.