From seductive “she-devil” to naive girl-next-door, the mystery over American Amanda Knox’s true character has been central to the long-running murder case which took yet another dramatic twist on Thursday.
An Italian court, following almost 12 hours of deliberation, reinstated her guilty verdict for the murder of British housemate Meredith Kercher, potentially paving the way for a protracted and public extradition struggle between the US and Italy.
With her fresh-faced good looks, blue-eyed Knox seemed an unlikely suspect for the brutal murder of Kercher in 2007, but from the start her accusers said the 26-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.
On Thursday she was once again found guilty and sentenced to 28 years and six month in prison while Sollecito was given a 25-year sentence.
Knox said in statement that the verdict was “unjust” and left her “frightened and saddened”.
She told the Guardian newspaper she was “a marked person”.
Knox’s family have presented a completely different picture of their daughter to the one sometimes presented in court.
She is, they claim, a loving, sporty girl who spoke proudly to her mother of her friendship with Kercher.
And she has received the backing of some of her fellow Americans. A New York Times editorial in 2009 called her: “An Innocent Abroad.”
During the first 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?”
When the gruesome case first came to light, Knox overnight was dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” — the nickname Knox herself used on the social network MySpace, though she maintains it referred to her childhood football skills — and immediately became an overnight media sensation.
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 US.
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 original 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.
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.
Following her acquittal on appeal in 2011, she resumed her studies in languages at the University of Washington, according to her family spokesman, and released a memoir titled Waiting to be Heard.
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.