ROME (Reuters) - Italy's top court said on Tuesday it had ordered a re-run of the Meredith Kercher murder trial because the acquittal of American Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend contained "shortcomings, contradictions and inconsistencies".
Knox and Italian Raffaele Sollecito were initially found guilty of killing the 21-year-old Leeds University student in 2007 during a drug-fuelled sexual assault, but both were cleared on appeal in 2011.
In March this year, Italy's top appeals court overturned that acquittal and ordered a retrial.
Explaining its reasons on Tuesday, the Court of Cassation said the judges in the appeals case had underestimated the evidence against the two accused, assessing clues one by one and not stepping back to view the big picture.
The one person still in jail for the murder, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede who is serving a 16-year sentence, may not have committed the crime alone, and the possibility that Kercher was killed during a group sex game would need to be re-examined, the Court of Cassation said.
Knox, now 25 and living back in the United States after four years in an Italian jail, has consistently denied involvement in her room-mate's death.
Sollecito's lawyer, Giulio Bongiorno, said: "If there was an erotic game then there needs to be a search for the other people involved, who are certainly not Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox," news agency Ansa reported.
Kercher's body was found with more than 40 wounds, including a deep gash in the throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, central Italy, where both were studying during a year abroad.
Kercher's lawyers, who have described the acquittal as "contradictory and illogical", have welcomed the plan for a retrial.
Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Robin Pomeroy