| 8.6°C Dublin

Hopes rise for Amanda Knox release over Kercher murder

Jailed Amanda Knox today spoke of her relief that ''finally they believe'' me as hopes rise for her and her family that she will be cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Knox, 24, is serving 26 years for the brutal killing of Meredith, 21, who was found semi naked and with her throat slashed in her bedroom of the house they shared with two other women.

Also convicted with her was her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 27, who was given 25 years but both deny any involvement and have based their appeal on shaky forensic evidence that was used to jail them in their first trial but has now proved shockingly unreliable.

Their hopes have been raised after two court appointed independent experts produced a report which condemned the original forensic investigation as shoddy with clear breaches of internationally recognised guidelines being breached raising the possibility of contamination.

Earlier this week prosecutors - who admitted they are not confident the convictions will be upheld - had a request for a second review of the evidence denied with judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman saying it was ''superfluous'' and that he and the jury had heard enough, with her family insisting it proved the case against her was ''falling apart.''

In an interview with local newspaper il Messaggero through her lawyer Luciano Ghirga, Knox said:''Finally they believe me. I always knew that I would make it. I hope that I will be back home in the United States for Thanksgiving Day.

''It's great to know that at last they don't hate me any more, that they are not looking at me as if I am guilty, although not all of them believe me, some still want to hurt me and I don't understand why.

''During the first trial I was so afraid to go in the witness box, there was such a hostile atmosphere, every time I spoke and cried as I tried to explain that I had nothing to do with what happened that night, I could tell people were laughing bemusedly and shrugging their shoulders. Now it's all changed.''

When asked what her biggest secret was Knox replied:''I'm going to whisper it because I still don't believe it, because I'm still scared it could all change at the last minute, that they could still find me guilty.

''Ok I will tell you. My secret is that I always believed I would get out of jail, where my life had frozen, after getting the truth to emerge.''

Knox, from Seattle, refused to comment on a film made about her earlier this year which starred Hayden Panettiere and said:''I don't want to talk about that, that's all part of the hatred that I am trying to beat. Meredith was my friend, I liked her, I could never hurt her.''

Today/yesterday her father Curt Knox visited his daughter in Capanne prison and was not immediately available for comment but earlier this week he said that he was in Perugia, where the murder took place in November 2007, to ''take Amanda home'' adding that the case was '''falling apart at the seams.''

The hearing is due to resume with closing arguments and final speeches on September 23rd and a final verdict is expected a week later. Rumours arealready flying around Perugia that American networks are offering her a ''million dollar deal'' to secure an exclusive interview with her when if and when she is released.

However her friend Madison Paxton, who moved to Perugia to be close to her, said:''She hasn't decided anything yet. If she gets out she wjust wants to go home and spend time with her friends and family. She wants to get her life back.''

Under Italian law she could launch a compensation claim against the judicial system if she is cleared and she could win 500,000 Euro in damages for the four years she has spent in jail.

Key to the case is a 30cm kitchen knife found at Sollecito's apartment on which DNA from Knox was on the handle and that of Meredith was discovered on the blade.

However the independent report by Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conte of Rome's La Sapeinza University has questioned seriously the reliability of the findings by forensic scientists.

Although they do not doubt Knox's DNA is on the handle, they have questioned the findings related to Meredith insisting that the level is so low it should not have been admitted as evidence in the first trial.

The experts have also questioned the reliability of DNA evidence found on Meredith's bloodied bra clasp which was found at the scene and then 'missed' for six weeks.

The original trial heard there were traces of Sollecito on the clasp after it was examined by forensic scientists but the experts say the fact it was left for six weeks at the scene leaves it open to contamination.

Police forensic scientist Patrizia Stefanoni who led the original investigation has dismissed any suggestion of contamination and insisted she and her team followed strict guidelines.

However earlier in the appeal the court was shown a video which showed the forensic team collecting evidence with dirty gloves and using their hands instead of tweezers to collect items.

Meredith, from Coulsdon, Surrey, was in Perugia as part of her Leeds University and had only been in Italy for two months before she was brutally murdered and Knox and Sollecito were jailed in December 2009.

A third defendant, small-time drug dealer Rudy Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast, was also jailed in connection with the brutal killing.

He was handed a 30-year sentence for murder and sexual violence following a fast-track trial in October 2008 which was later cut to 16 years.

The Independent