Amanda Knox back in the dock: 'she-devil' or girl-next-door?

26th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

From seductive "she-devil" to naive girl-next-door, the mystery over American Amanda Knox's true character was key to a gruesome murder case which appeared far from over on Tuesday.

In a dramatic twist, the country's supreme court in Rome overturned her acquittal for murder and ordered Knox and a co-defendant to face a retrial.

With her fresh-faced good looks, blue-eyed Knox seemed an unlikely suspect for the brutal murder of her housemate Meredith Kercher in 2007, but from the start her accusers said the 24-year-old's demure nature hid a "demonic" soul.

Prosecutors depicted her as lascivious and slovenly -- a drug-using party goer who regularly brought strange men back to her room for sex and exasperated housemates by leaving vibrators and erotic underwear on display.

They said Kercher was murdered after refusing to take part in a drug-fuelled sex game with Knox, her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and immigrant Rudy Guede. Kercher, 21, was found naked in a pool of blood with her throat slit.

Knox was convicted in December 2009 and sentenced to 26 years in prison but acquitted in October 2011.

Knox's family presented a completely different picture of a loving, sporty girl who spoke proudly to her mother of her friendship with Kercher.

A New York Times editorial in 2009 called her: "An Innocent Abroad".

During her appeal, Knox herself asked: "How is it possible that I could be capable of such violence? How could I commit evil against a friend of mine?"

Pleading before the court in her final appeal statement she said: "I did not kill, I did not rape, I did not steal. I wasn't there."

Overnight, the case become a media sensation, a whodunnit starring "Foxy Knoxy" -- the nickname Knox herself used on the social network MySpace, though she maintains it referred to her childhood football skills.

Her "Angel Face" -- the title of a book about the case -- hit front pages across the world and prompted an upswell of support in the United States.

The glaring media spotlight, combined with leaks to scoop-hungry tabloids during the investigation and stories about her racy past from former friends, prompted fears that the Seattle native may not have been given a fair trial.

Friends of Amanda Knox groups sprang up in her hometown and on the Internet, with messages of support deploring the "warped image" created in the press.

Her defence fiercely ridiculed the portrayal of Knox as a dominatrix "Venus in Furs" or a femme fatale who preys on weaker men, like the fictional "Jessica Rabbit" in the cartoon film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

Speaking in her own defence during the trial, Knox said she was innocent and had lied to police at the start because she had been subjected to "a steady crescendo" of abuse during long periods of questioning without a lawyer.

Though she was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 26 years in prison, Knox protested her innocence and her supporters slammed the Italian justice system and called vociferously for her release as the appeal got underway.

Behind bars, the University of Washington student wiled away four years reading Dostoyevsky and Hemingway and praying, according to a member of the Italian parliament who has published a book based on numerous talks with Knox.

In the collection of interviews, Knox dreamt of freedom and talked about her hopes of being an interpreter or a writer, her love for nature, her longing for motherhood as well as her interest in Buddhism and Christianity.

Sobbing wildly as the appeal verdict was read, Knox returned to Seattle, from where she thanked "everyone who's believed in me, who's defended me, who has supported my family."

She has since resumed her studies in languages at the University of Washington, according to her family spokesman, and her memoir titled "Waiting to be Heard" -- "a full and unflinching account of the events" -- is due out next month.

Sollecito's 2012 memoir, "Honor Bound: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox," which draws heavily on diaries, casts doubt over where Knox was the night of the murder and accuses her of "bizarre behaviour".

He says he and Knox had smoked marijuana, clouding his memory of whether she stayed the night or left -- throwing her alibi into question -- and said her odd behaviour was unfathomable.

© 2013 AFP

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