The bereaved family of Meredith Kercher is speaking out against the public fixation on Amanda Knox, their slain loved one's former roommate, in the final stretch of one of Italy's most sensational and closely watched trials.
Knox was convicted of Kercher's 2007 death alongside her Italian ex-boyfriend and another man, and now awaits an appeal verdict expected on Oct. 3.
The Kercher family has largely chosen to remain silent during years of trial and appeal, quietly honouring Meredith's memory on the Nov. 1 anniversary of her death and her birthday on Dec. 28.
But as the verdict approaches, they are growing increasingly agitated. They argue that Kercher has been eclipsed by Knox in the public's eye, as supporters of the photogenic American mount a high-profile campaign to free her.
"As a journalist myself, I know the reason why. Knox is young, attractive and female," wrote the victim's father John Kercher in a December issue of the Daily Mail tabloid.
"To many, she seems an unlikely killer," he wrote. "Yet to my family she is, unequivocally, culpable."
Rare court appearance
The prosecution detailed DNA evidence and other circumstantial clues as they had their last chance to talk to the jury on Friday.
During rebuttals, the Kerchers' lawyer Francesco Maresca urged the jury to "confirm the truth" in front of the victim's mother, sister and a brother, who made the journey to Perugia for the verdict.
"You will look Meredith's family in the eyes only once," Maresca said. "They could not always be here in court due to the mother's health problems and siblings' economic problems."
In fact, he said, the family had trouble finding airline tickets for the verdict, which the lawyer contrasted with reports that the Knox family had a private jet ready to whisk the American student out of the country in the case of a not guilty finding. Knox's family has denied the existence of such a plan.
Earlier, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini said acquitting Knox would mean forever losing a chance at justice.
"We know what an acquittal means — a swift escape abroad," he told the Appeals Court. "Escape we could no longer remedy."
Kercher family cry out in trial's final stretch
In one of the few TV interviews they have granted, Kercher's sister Stephanie and mother Arline said attention should focus on justice for the victim, not Knox or her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
"In this whole case — going on four years —Meredith has been forgotten," Stephanie Kercher said in a recorded interview on RAI public television this month.
"The attention has completely moved from Meredith to Amanda and Raffaele," she said. "She was lovely, kind and we lost her."
Defence lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova has countered that the media attention on the trial was hard on Knox, arguing on Thursday that his client had been "crucified, impaled in the public piazza."
He said Knox "had been overwhelmed by a media tsunami," and that respect for Kercher should not translate to a guilty verdict for his client, who maintains her innocence.
What might have been
Kercher would have been a 25-year-old graduate of Leeds University. Instead, her sister Stephanie accepted her degree, granted posthumously, to a standing ovation at Leeds in 2009.
Kercher was the youngest in her family, with three siblings — two brothers and a sister. She loved ballet and gymnastics and had an orange belt in karate. She wrote poetry and stories.
People remembered her as being warm and generous, full of hugs, lending class notes to anyone who asked, and always rushing to help anyone who needed it.
After arriving in Perugia, she kept a cellphone with a British number to stay in close contact with her mother, who was in poor health.
Only one vice is ever mentioned. "She was always late, always running," her mother Arline said on the RAI TV interview.
"She was a girl full of life. She loved music, she loved to dance. She was full of joy in her heart."