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Family of slain Briton takes stand at Italy trial

/ Source: The Associated Press

The mother of a British student killed in Italy in 2007 says she will never get over her daughter's brutal death, as she testified about the victim during the trial of two young people accused of the killing.

Meredith Kercher was 21 when she was found slain in Perugia on Nov. 2, 2007.

Prosecutors allege she died during what began as a sex game and are seeking conviction on murder charges of Amanda Knox, a U.S. student who was the victim's roommate, and Knox's former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian. The two deny wrongdoing.

"It was unbelievable, unreal, in many ways it still is," Arline Kercher said Saturday of her daughter's death, as she sighed deeply and fought back tears. "I still look for her."

"It's not just the death, but the nature of it, the brutality of it, the violence and the great sorrow it's brought everyone," the 63-year-old woman said during her testimony in a Perugia courtroom.

"It was such a shock," she said. "We'll never get over it."

‘Very moved’
Knox looked on as the victim's relatives took the stand, and one of her lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, said afterward she was "very moved" as she listened to the Kerchers' testimony. Knox's lawyers chose not to cross-examine any of them.

The American is scheduled to testify as the trial resumes next week.

Kercher was found in a pool of blood in the apartment she shared with Knox. Prosecutors said Sollecito was holding her by the shoulders from behind while Knox touched her with the point of a knife.

The two, jailed since November 2007, are charged with murder and sexual assault. If convicted, they could face life imprisonment, Italy's stiffest punishment.

Sollecito, 25, has said he was at his own apartment in Perugia, working at his computer. He said he does not remember if Knox spent the whole night with him or just part of it. As he left the courtroom after the Kerchers' testimony, he said, turning toward the cameras, "I expect justice, just like them."

Knox, a 21-year-old former University of Washington student, after giving conflicting statements, has insisted she was not home during the slaying.

‘She was so excited’
Arline Kercher and the victim's sister, Stephanie, described the victim as a conscientious, studious woman who was excited to go to Italy and who worked hard at arranging her trip under the Erasmus student exchange program. They described how she loved the city's chocolate festival and how she rejoiced at her progress in the Italian language.

"She was so excited," Stephanie Kercher said. "She was really looking forward to her time here."

Relatives recalled the last time they talked with the victim, and how she was planning to go back home for her mother's birthday later that month. They said that during their phone conversations with the victim over the period she was away, Kercher barely mentioned Knox.

The victim's father, John Kercher, said she complained about Knox's bathroom habits. She also expressed surprise that Knox had hooked up with a boyfriend shortly after her arrival, he said.

Kercher was also described as a physically strong person, who exercised and studied karate.

"She could have put out quite a fight," John Kercher said, responding to a prosecutor's question of his daughter would have defended herself if she could have.

Civil plaintiffs
The Kercher family has joined the criminal trial as civil plaintiffs.

In a statement released Friday, the family said they had come not "with hate but to have justice and to understand what exactly happened to Meredith."

A third suspect in the case, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, was found guilty of murder and sexual violence and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was given a fast-track trial at his request, and his appeal is set to start in November.

Guede, 22, has acknowledged being in Kercher's room that night but denies having killed her.