ROME Nov. 2, 2009— -- It was two-years ago today that Meredith Kercher, a promising young student from England, was found murdered in her room in a picturesque cottage in Perugia, Italy where she had gone for a year of study abroad.
After a drawn-out investigation and a lengthy trial that began last January, a court in Perugia is finally expected to reach a verdict next month which will decide the fate of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, two other young and promising students who are accused of causing her death.
The Italian trial featuring hundreds of witnesses and conflicting scientific evidence, coupled with young, attractive and unlikely suspects, has kept the attention of press and public across two continents, at times with sensational or lurid details.
Throughout the investigation and trial, John and Arline Kercher have kept their grief private, maintaining a reserve and stoic front and saying little about the devastating loss of their daughter.
On Sunday, the second anniversary of Meredith's death, they broke their silence by announcing that the Kercher family had held a private ceremony in England to remember her, "a dignified and simple commemoration, as suits her memory."
"We can only hope now that a conclusion is reached in the next five weeks, so that we can finally dedicate ourselves to remember Meredith for the person that all of us knew and not as a victim or as a news item," they said in a brief statement released by their lawyer.
"The two years since Meredith's death have passed very quickly. But we still miss her more than ever."
In Perugia in November 2007, just days after she was killed, her parents and sister held a press conference during which her sister Stephanie remembered Meredith as "one of the most beautiful, intelligent, witty and caring people you could wish to meet."
She was someone very special, Stephanie said, "a 21-year-old student who was into her studies, worked hard, and enjoyed spending time socializing with her friends and family…we feel it is no exaggeration to say that Meredith touched the lives of everyone she met with her infectious upbeat personality, smile and sense of humour."
In Italy Meredith "was excited at the prospect of…studying to improve her language skills, meet new friends, and immerse herself in the culture," Stephanie said.
One of Meredith's newfound friends, now stands accused of her murder.
Meredith Kercher's Parents Mark Second Anniversary of Her Death
Knox, a 22-year-old from Seattle who shared the apartment on the edge of the medieval hill town of Perugia with Kercher and two Italian women, and Sollecito, 25, Knox's former boyfriend , were arrested just days after Kercher's death.
A third person, Rudy Guede, 22, has already been convicted in what the prosecutors believe was a violent sex game gone awry. All three deny the charges.
Meredith's family has followed the investigation into Meredith's murder closely and hired an Italian lawyer to represent them as civil plaintiffs in the trials of both Guede and of Knox and Sollecito.
In June of this year the Kerchers traveled to Perugia to testify about their daughter at the trial.They spoke of a "conscientious and intelligent" girl, who was also strong and determined, someone who would have fought for her life.
"She was very passionate about things that were important to her – family, friends, coming to Italy," Stephanie told the court. "She fought for her place here and she would have fought to the end."
Arline, Meredith's mother, recalled her loss. "Her death was unreal in many ways, and still is," she said in June. The violent nature of her death made it even worse. "We will never, never get over this," Arline Kercher said. "It's such a shock to send your child to school and not have her come back…I still look for her."
Before leaving for Italy, Meredith's father, John Kercher, a free-lance journalist, wrote a story in which he described for the first time how he found out she had died.
"I am at home when Meredith's mother Arline calls to say she's heard reports that a British girl student has been murdered in Perugia," Kercher wrote on June 6 in the English Daily Mirror.
"Obviously, there is concern. But there are thousands of British students in Perugia, and you try to use that as a calming influence."
The Agony of Meredith Kercher's Father
But after dozens of calls fruitless calls to Meredith's phone over the course of an hour, "my instincts have kicked in. I have to get information fast," he continues.
He asked his colleagues at the Mirror for help. "There's some reluctance from the woman on the phone to give me the information. But I shall never forget her words: 'The name going around Italy is Meredith.'"
"I drop the phone. I don't believe it and think there must be a mistake. But I know it's probably true."
His fears turned to fact and the family traveled to Italy to identify and retrieve Meredith's body.
"At the morgue.... Arline and Stephanie go in to see Meredith. But I can't because it would have put a full stop to my memory of her. I had last seen her a couple of weeks before…we met for a coffee and she showed mo some boots she had bought. I want that to be the one memory of my daughter I hold in my mind for ever," John Kercher wrote.
Arline and John Kercher plan to return to Perugia in December for the end of the trial.