In contrast to her quiet confidence a week ago Amanda Knox, the American student suspected of taking part in the murder last year of Meredith Kercher, her British roommate, appeared tense, pale and nervous Friday as she entered a courtroom in Perugia for the second in a series of pre-trial hearings.

At the court Knox came face to face with Raffaele Sollecito, her former Italian boyfriend and fellow suspect, for the first time since their arrest 10 months ago.

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Dressed in a sky-blue V-necked sweater and jeans, she was marched rapidly into court, flanked by blue-bereted prison guards. She flinched visibly as she passed reporters and photographers, audibly drawing in her breath.

Knox's nervous manner was in contrast to her appearance at the first pre-trial hearing a week ago, when she appeared serene, fresh faced and demure in an embroidered white blouse. The Italian media interpreted this as a silent statement of her innocence and an attempt to counteract the widespread image of her as a scheming "angel-faced killer."

Rudy Guede, the Ivory Coast-born immigrant who is the third suspect, arrived at the court shortly before Ms Knox, wearing a black T-shirt and with his head almost shaven. Sollecito, who failed to appear at the first pre-trial hearing, allegedly because he was unwell, arrived 20 minutes later in a white cotton jacket and jeans, with wavy long hair.

Defense lawyers for all three suspects will this morning challenge the testimony of an Albanian, Hekuran Kokomani, who claims to have seen the three together on the night of the murder, November 1-2. They claim that his account is confused and unreliable. Kokomani has told police that it was raining when he saw the three, but video footage taken from a CCTV camera at the car park above the cottage where the murder took place shows that there was no rain that evening.

In evidence to police in January Kokomani said he had parked his VW Golf near dustbins outside the hillside cottage that Knox and Kercher shared with two female Italian students. He had seen a girl emerge from the cottage waving a knife and screaming, and also saw a young man wearing a cap and a dark-skinned man, who were agitated and threatened him.

He later recognized the three as Knox, Sollecito and Guede from photographs in the newspapers. However Mr Kokomani has admitted that he cannot remember if this was on October 31 or November 1.

Today's hearing will also hear evidence from Guede's former schoolteacher, Ivana Tiberi, and Gabriele Mancini, a friend of Guede's, as character witnesses.

Knox and Sollecito had been lovers for two weeks when Kercher, a Leeds University student on an Erasmus study course in Perugia, was found with her throat slashed.

Court sources said that Sollecito exchanged glances with Knox when he entered the courtroom, but they did not speak. To ensure that they do not communicate the three suspects have been placed not beside or opposite each other but in three different rows, with Sollecito in the front row, Knox behind him, and Guede in the third behind Knox.

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.