UK

Amanda Knox Verdict: Knox And Sollecito Acquitted

03/10/2011 20:21 BST | Updated 03/12/2011 10:12 GMT

After four years in prison, American student Amanda Knox, 24, and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27, have been acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Knox was bundled out of the court in tears after the verdict was read out in a court in Perugia, Italy, on Monday. Her parents, Curt and Edda Mellas, hugged their lawyers.

Meredith, a student at Leeds University from Coulsdon in Surrey, was discovered in bed, half-naked with her throat cut in November 2007.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted of the 21-year-old's murder in 2009.

Kercher's family, who had earlier given a press conference in which they expressed their confidence in the Italian judicial system, remained seated as the verdict was read out. Meredith's sister, Stephanie, broke down and was comforted by her brother, Lyle.

Outside the court, Amanda's sister, Deanna, said:

"We're thankful that Amanda's nightmare is over. She has suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit."

She also thanked Knox's layers and the support the family received from around the world.

"Not only did they defend her brilliantly, but they also loved her," she said. "And last, we are thankful to the court for having the courage to look for the truth and to overturn this conviction."

She ended the statement by appealing for privacy for the Knox family.

Amanda Knox herself thanked Italians "who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope", according to the Associated Press.

Although cleared of murder, Knox was found guilty of defamation by judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmanand. He set her sentence at time served.

After the verdict was delivered, Knox’s lawyer said:

“There is no winner. Justice has superseded ... Amanda was a friend of Meredith and we should remember this.

“This [the conviction] was a mistake according to our system ... The court of appeal has rectified the mistake of the original trial.

“Amanda is a very intelligent girl. She has matured. We worked with her in order to defend her … and we are happy to have had her as a client.”

There were ugly scenes outside the Perugia courthouse where a hostile crowd jeered the both appellant's lawyers. More than 100 people had gathered for the verdict. There were cries of "shame, shame" when the verdict was read out.

The prosecution said they would appeal.

Sollecito and Knox were due to return to prison to go through the release procedure. Knox is expected to leave Italy at midday on Tuesday on a commercial flight, the BBC reported.

Her imminent release comes after she gave an impassioned plea in court protesting her innocence.