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Kercher: Loved ones rally to keep memory alive

By Peter Wilkinson, CNN
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Friends and relatives of murder victim Meredith Kercher seek to keep her memory alive
  • Kercher's sister Stephanie said the family might never know exactly what happened on the night of her death
  • Kercher was killed in 2007 in villa in Perugia, Italy, that she rented with Amanda Knox
  • 21-year-old lived life to full and had "big heart," say friends

London (CNN) -- Amid massive global interest in the trial, appeal and retrial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, it has been easy to overlook their alleged victim, Meredith Kercher, who was found brutally murdered in the flat she shared with Knox in Italy in 2007.

Knox and Sollecito were convicted of Kercher's murder in 2009 but were acquitted and released from prison on appeal in 2011. In March 2013, Italy's Supreme Court overturned the pair's acquittals, saying that the jury did not consider all the evidence and that discrepancies in testimony needed to be answered.

The case was sent to a retrial in Florence, which began in September last year and concluded on Thursday with another conviction for murder for Knox and Sollecito.

Speaking Friday in Florence, Kercher's sister Stephanie said the family might never know exactly what happened on the night of her death.

"I think we are still on the journey to the truth," she said. "I think it may be the fact that we don't ever really know what happened that night, which is obviously something we will have to come to terms with."

Lyle Kercher, Meredith's brother, said the family may have to wait until spring 2015 for a final resolution, since the verdicts reached Thursday can still be appealed at Italy's Supreme Court.

"Nothing is going to bring Meredith back, nothing will take away the horror of what happened for her," he said.

"The best we can hope for is finally bringing this whole case to a conclusion, having a conviction, and everyone can move on with their lives."

A lawyer for Kercher's family, Francesco Maresca, said in his closing remarks in December during the retrial that Kercher had been forgotten.

Amanda Knox convicted and sentenced
Amanda Knox: I am not a devil
Tacopina: Knox is 'stone-cold' innocent

"No one remembers Meredith, while the two defendants write books, speak to the media and earn money," Maresca said.

When Knox made the media rounds to promote her memoir in May 2013, Kercher's sister said the family was not interested in reading the book.

"We are not interested in this book just like so many others about the case and we will not read it," Stephanie Kercher said in a statement. "I have no doubts that on the other side there is a story of pain and loss and enormous mistrust but in the end it is also one of hope and the opportunity to live life. Something Meredith will never have and something we can never share with her. Meredith is the victim in this tragic case."

Despite the focus on Knox's endless travails, Kercher's family and friends remain determined to keep her memory alive.

"I want people to remember Meredith for the good times she had in Perugia, not just the horrible ending," said Natalie Hayward, who got to know Kercher before her death.

"She was very generous and open and had a very big heart. She was a very fulfilled human being. She was happy and talked about her family all the time. She had lived life to the full. That gives me a great deal of comfort."

Kercher was just 21 when she was killed in the villa she rented with Knox in the central Italian university town of Perugia. Her body was found semi-naked and her throat had been slashed.

Kercher was a third-year student at the University of Leeds focusing on European Studies when she got the chance to live in Perugia for a year to study European Politics and Italian.

She worked at Gatwick Airport, near her home in Coulsdon, a dormitory town south of London, to raise money for the trip.

Her father John told the Daily Telegraph: "She fought so hard to get out there. There were quite a few setbacks but she was determined to go and kept persisting and eventually got what she wanted."

I've no doubt that the other side also has a story of pain and loss and utter disbelief but in the end it is also one of hope and a chance to live life; something Meredith will never have
Stephanie Kercher

Her family later described how she was "excited at the prospect of spending the year studying there to improve her language skills, make new friends and immerse herself in the culture. She was pursuing her dream."

She moved into a shared apartment with Knox but tensions mounted between the two young women, according to Hayward, who met Kercher in September 2007.

Hayward told the Sunday Telegraph in 2011 that Kercher, known to her friends as "Mez," became "frustrated" by Knox's refusal to do cleaning and was unhappy that her flatmate kept a sex toy on open display in a bathroom cabinet.

Kercher, the youngest of four children, had a good sense of humor, according to her family, and "a sense of the ridiculous." While growing up she was interested in poetry, gymnastics and ballet.

Her India-born mother Arline gave an interview to Italian television show Porta a Porta in September 2011 in which she described Meredith's love of life.

She said her daughter was a "very loving child, a very sweet girl." She said: "She was always ready to help you. I will never, ever forget her."

Her father, a freelance journalist who wrote a book about his daughter -- "Meredith" -- described her as a "beautiful, intelligent and caring girl whom everyone loved" in a story for the Daily Mail newspaper, before the book's release.

"I hope our telling the world about the enchanting, generous, kind person that Meredith was can help those whose lives she touched," he wrote. "I also hope this book might help to keep Meredith's case in the spotlight, and, in some small way, to keep alive the hope that we might yet know the truth about her death."

John Kercher wrote about the moment he learned the British student killed in Perugia was his daughter. He'd spoken to her the day before.

"I drop the phone," he wrote in Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper. "I don't believe it and think there must be a mistake. But I know it's probably true. I can't cry. I'm numb with shock."

He also told about hearing that some of Meredith's friends planned to lay flowers at her old school after her death.

Expecting just a few, he and Arline arrived to find more than 70 people, some having come from around the country. "It's unbelievably touching," John Kercher recalled. A trust fund has since been set up to support the Kercher family's fight for justice.

"Meredith is not only a terrible loss to her family and friends, she is also a huge loss to the world," he said.

Richard Ottaway, the member of parliament for Coulsden, was taken aback by Meredith's funeral at Croydon Minster. "It was packed and overflowing," he told CNN. "It was quite clear Meredith was a popular girl ... so many friends there. It was the perhaps moving service I have ever been to."

The priest who took the service described how Meredith's parents dealt with that emotionally charged day. "They were very, very courageous," said Canon Colin Boswell, vicar of Croydon. "They had great dignity and calm sort of dignity which they maintained right up until now."

Read more: Six things to know about retrial

Read more: Meredith Kercher murder case timeline

Read more: Who is Raffaele Sollecito

Read more: Who is Amanda Knox?

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