A man appealing his conviction for murdering a British student testified Wednesday that he heard her arguing with her American roommate Amanda Knox minutes before she was slain.
Rudy Hermann Guede of Ivory Coast spoke at the opening of his appeal at a court in Perugia, saying he had tried to save Meredith Kercher after he heard a loud scream coming from her bedroom.
Guede was convicted last year in a fast-track trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing the 21-year-old exchange student from Leeds, England in Italy. He has maintained his innocence.
Guede's appeals process began even as the murder trial implicating Knox, from Seattle, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, continued. Knox and Sollecito, who are accused of murder and sexual violence in Kercher's slaying, deny any wrongdoing. A verdict in their trial is expected next month.
Guede told the court Wednesday that he went to the house where Kercher was killed on Nov. 1, 2007, together with Kercher, but then fell ill and went to the bathroom along with his iPod.
"Then I heard Meredith's and Amanda's voices, arguing about some money missing," he said. "I was listening to music and at one point I heard a very loud scream."
Guede said he rushed into Kercher's bedroom where he saw an unidentified man who tried to attack him. Backing down into the hallway, Guede said he heard the man say "'Let's go, there's a black man in the house.'"
Guede said he heard footsteps leaving the house and looked out of the window, where he saw a silhouette that he later identified as Knox's.
Guede said he then tried to rescue Kercher, who was lying in a pool of blood after her throat was slit. He said he took her in his arms and tried to mop up the blood with towels, but then panicked and left the house.
"Seeing Meredith in these terms was agonizing," he said. "She tried to tell me something, but I couldn't understand her. I held her hand, I asked her what had happened. ... In that moment, I entered into a state of shock" and fled.
"I want to let the Kercher family know that I did not kill or rape their little daughter," he said. "I am not the one who took her life away from them."
He added: "I don't know if I could have saved her. That's the only thing I can apologize for."
Later Wednesday, prosecutor Pietro Catalani asked the court to confirm the sentence of 30 years in jail for Guede.
"He is not credible," Catalani said, adding that wounds on Kercher's body suggest it took far longer for her to die than Guede's testimony indicated.
Proceedings were adjourned to Dec. 21, when Guede's defense lawyers will argue their case.
Guede's appeals trial is separate from that of Knox and Sollecito, and his testimony cannot be included in the proceedings against them, lawyers said. Guede took the stand during Knox and Sollecito's trial but declined to answer prosecutors' questions or offer any spontaneous testimony.
Prosecutors say Kercher was killed during what began as a sex game.
According to the prosecutors, Sollecito held Kercher by the shoulders while Knox touched her with a knife. They say Guede tried to sexually assault Kercher and then Knox fatally stabbed her in the throat.
Guede was arrested in Germany shortly after the killing on an international arrest warrant and was later extradited to Italy.
Authorities began looking for Guede after his fingerprint was found in bloodstains on Kercher's pillow, and other DNA traces were recovered on toilet paper and on the victim's body.
Defense lawyers for Knox and Sollecito are working on the theory that Guede was the sole attacker.
The 22-year-old Knox maintains she spent the night of the murder at Sollecito's house in Perugia. The 25-year-old Sollecito has said he was home working at his computer that night. He said he does not remember if Knox spent the whole night with him or just part of it.