Amanda Knox 'innocent' says convicted child murderer

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Media captionBBC's Duncan Kennedy says the Italian public's fascination with the case has not waned

A convicted child murderer has told a court he has information which could clear Amanda Knox, who was found guilty of killing her British roommate.

American Knox, 23, is appealing against her murder conviction for killing 21-year-old Meredith Kercher.

Mario Alessi told the appeal of a prison confession made to him by Rudy Guede, who was also convicted, in a separate case, of killing Miss Kercher.

He said Guede confided Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were innocent.

Viterbo prison

Sollecito, Knox's 26-year-old former boyfriend, is also appealing against his murder conviction.

Alessi is a Sicilian worker who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 18-month old Tommaso Onofri in 2006.

He told the court in the Italian town of Perugia that Guede made the claim during recreation time at the Viterbo prison in November 2009, a month before Knox and Sollecito were convicted in the first trial and when Guede had already been convicted.

"Rudy links arms with me, inviting me to take a walk with him, he has something important to tell me," he said, adding that Guede was worried because "I don't know whether to tell the truth or not, and that the truth is altogether different from what you hear on TV."

According to Alessi, Guede said he and a friend went to the house Miss Kercher shared with Knox with the intent of having sex with Miss Kercher and that when she refused, the scene turned violent.

Image caption Mario Alessi said he believed Knox and Sollecito were not at the house at the time of the murder

He said Guede told him he had gone to the bathroom and upon coming back he had seen his friend holding Miss Kercher to the ground.

Eventually, "a knife appeared, almost out of nowhere," Alessi said, quoting Guede as saying that it was pointed at Miss Kercher's throat.

Alessi claimed that as she was fighting, her throat was slit. Guede tried to help her, but his friend stopped him, saying "we've got to finish her, otherwise we'll rot in jail".

Guede did not reveal the identity of his alleged accomplice, according to the witness.

Alessi said he and Guede had become friends but eventually he broke it off as he realized that Guede had said two innocent people were in jail and had done nothing about it.

Alessi said he then contacted lawyers representing Sollecito.

At the court's request Guede is to be heard as a witness on 27 June.

Mafia claims

Four other inmates, who claim they have information which clears both Knox and Sollecito, were called to give evidence in the appeals trial.

Image caption Raffaele Sollecito is also appealing against his murder conviction

On Saturday police informant Marco Castelluccio, who was also held in Viterbo prison, took the stand behind a blue cover, with guards around him.

He said although he had heard the story that Knox and Sollecito were innocent mainly from Alessi, on one occasion when he was in his cell he heard Guede say from a separate cell that they were innocent.

Two other inmates gave evidence to back Alessi's account but Luciano Aviello, a Mafia member, had an alternative story.

He told the court that his brother, a fugitive from justice, killed Miss Kercher as he attempted to steal a painting.

Aviello described how he was at his home in Perugia when his brother showed up, his jacket ripped and his arm bleeding.

He said his brother and an accomplice had turned up at the the wrong address and found themselves in Miss Kercher's house, where they sexually assaulted and then killed her.

After the proceedings, Knox's stepfather Chris Mellas said of the new witnesses: "They are not saying anything that has not been said in the past, with the exception of Aviello, but, you know, the importance of Aviello is that the previous court wouldn't hear him, and from what I understand of it that's actually against the law."

"When a person comes forward and says that they have testimony as a witness, the court is supposed to hear them and the previous court did not.

"As to the veracity of what he is saying, I don't know. Nobody knows because they would not investigate his claim."

However, Francesco Maresca, a lawyer for the Kercher family, described the hearing a "farce", saying: "We heard from people serving life sentences, convicts, proven liars."

He added: "Aviello has been convicted repeatedly for defamation."

'Lenient sentences'

Knox is serving a 26-year sentence while co-defendant Italian Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years.

Miss Kercher, from Coulsdon, south London, was found with her throat cut at her flat in Perugia.

Prosecutors said the murder followed a sex game taken to the extreme.

BBC correspondent Duncan Kennedy at the appeal trial in Rome said all four witnesses were not allowed to give evidence in the original trial.

"All are convicted criminals which is why the prosecution will say their credibility is very low and that these men have an interest in coming up with these stories to get lenient sentences themselves," he said.

"The Knox and Sollecito teams were determined for these men to be in court as they say they have a story to tell which goes to prove they did not kill Meredith Kercher."

A forensic report is due at the end of June where two independent experts have re-examined the evidence, in particular a knife which the prosecution say could have been the murder weapon but which the defence teams of Knox and Sollecito are convinced will help to find them innocent and overturn their convictions.

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