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"Sunny" Meredith, victim, forgotten at Italy trial

Oct 3, 2011, 10:51 a.m.

By Deepa Babington

PERUGIA, Italy (Reuters) - Four years after her brutal murder, British student Meredith Kercher has been virtually forgotten as the media spotlight shifted to Amanda Knox, the fresh-faced American girl appealing against her conviction for killing her.

Kercher's family has maintained a relatively low profile in what has become a global media sensation but is distressed that the focus on Knox has drawn attention away from the victim of a bloody murder.

They say they are determined not to let her be forgotten.

"Mez was such a lovely girl, a great friend to everyone that she knew," her sister Stephanie told a news conference, hours before an expected verdict in U.S. student Amanda Knox's appeal against her 26-year jail sentence.

"She helped everyone out, rushing out to get to everyone's birthday or dinner, she was always there for everyone."

Meredith, or "Mez" to her friends, was on a year-long Erasmus exchange program in the hilltop university town of Perugia when her half-naked body was found in a pool of blood in the apartment she shared with American Amanda Knox.

The popular Leeds University student was just 21.

Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were arrested and convicted of murdering Kercher, allegedly when she resisted their efforts to include her in a sex game. A verdict in their appeal against the conviction is due on Monday.

Meredith's family, who arrived in Perugia on a budget airline shortly before the expected verdict, said they were happy with the Italian investigation and were now just waiting for the court's decision.

"We were satisfied with that last time, nothing has changed since then, it's still exactly the same," Stephanie said. "They are entitled to their appeal, that's how the Italian justice system works."

QUIET FAMILY FROM SURREY

But whatever the result of the appeal, they said it was too early to offer forgiveness to Meredith's killer.

"It's very difficult to speak of forgiveness at this point. Four years is a long time, on the other hand it's not, and it's still very, very raw," her brother Lyle said.

"We feel it the most when we meet up for things like her birthday or Christmas, and her absence is huge really."

Since her arrest, Knox has become a household name, with a legion of supporters in the United States lobbying to free her and portraying her as the victim of injustice.

"Mez has been almost forgotten in all of this," said Stephanie Kercher, who arrived with her brother and their Indian-born mother Arline.

"What everyone needs to remember, is the brutality of what actually happened that night and everything that Meredith must have felt that night. Everything she went through, the fear, the terror and not knowing why. She didn't deserve that, no-one deserves that, she loved this place," she said.

In one of the last photos of her, Meredith is seen dressed up for Halloween as a vampire in a collared black cape and bright red lipstick, with her straight black hair falling across her shoulders.

Arline suffers from health problems, while Meredith's two brothers and sister could not afford to attend the entire trial, their lawyer has said, describing the Kerchers as a middle-class family of modest means.

Lyle Kercher said the "large PR machine" supporting the Knox camp and the "hype" around the case ad made it hard on his family.

"In terms of what media and money they put behind it, if they fully believe in their innocence then you can't blame that. But then its very difficult for us as a family to be thrust into this worldwide limelight," he said.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Barry Moody and Roger Atwood)

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