What now for Foxy? Dreams of being a mother, Hollywood millions and a new life as a professional martyr to injustice

Each evening when her university lectures were over, Amanda Knox liked to pour a glass of wine and gaze down from the hilltop cottage she shared with Meredith Kercher, watching the shadows lengthen over the rolling Umbrian countryside.

Amid the vineyards and citrus groves stood an incongruously ugly, three-storey breeze-block building surrounded by forbidding high walls.

A chronically overcrowded, modern prison holding 600 men and  90 women, it is named Capanne after the pretty nearby hamlet that’s just a 20-minute drive from the rented house in Perugia where the two students lived.

Consoling: Knox with her then-boyfriend Sollecito shortly after the murder of Meredith Kercher

Consoling: Knox with her then-boyfriend Sollecito shortly after the murder of Meredith Kercher

Soon after she was charged with murdering Meredith, on November 6, 2007, Knox was taken there, at first sharing a cell with another accused murderess who bombarded her with accusatory questions, clearly convinced of her guilt.

An innocent abroad, as a court has very belatedly decided, she was from the outset terrified and totally alone, 6,000 miles from her home in Seattle and then speaking little Italian.

Just 20 years old at the time, Knox consoled herself with the belief that her lawyers would secure bail and she would, at least, be kept under house arrest pending her trial. Her optimism was pitifully misplaced.

Overcome: Knox breaks down in tears after hearing the verdict that overturned her conviction

Overcome: Knox breaks down in tears after hearing the verdict that overturned her conviction

Freedom: Knox served four years of a 26-year prison sentence. After leaving the court she was reunited with friends and family. She is expected to fly back to the U.S. today

Freedom: Knox served four years of a 26-year prison sentence. After leaving the court she was reunited with friends and family. She is expected to fly back to the U.S. today

In the event, this was the place where she would spend the next 1,427 days of her life.

During those four long years, according to the few close family members and friends who have  been permitted to see her (she has been allowed six one-hour visits a month), even her doubters could not deny Knox has coped stoically with the injustice of being wrongly convicted.

She has matured into a very different young woman from the unappealingly self-absorbed figure we first saw smooching with her boyfriend when Meredith’s body was barely cold.

She has been teaching other prisoners English, learning several languages in addition to Italian, in which she is now fluent (she made just one minor grammatical mistake in her 700-word court address), playing correspondence chess by post — one move per letter — and joining the prison choir.

‘My husband said to me one day: “If Amanda can sing with all this weight on her shoulders, how can we moan about the little things that get to us? It’s not comparable to what she’s gone through,” ' says Knox’s mother, Edda Mellas.

‘My child has found an inner energy. She has always tried to be positive.’

Tears of joy: Amanda Knox's sister Deanna Knox (centre) cries in Perugia's Court of Appeal after hearing that Amanda won her appeal

Tears of joy: Amanda Knox's sister Deanna Knox (centre) cries in Perugia's Court of Appeal after hearing that Amanda won her appeal

Indeed, she has. Together with Madison Paxton, a Mormon who has moved from the U.S. to Perugia to support her, she plans to set up an Amnesty International-style organisation helping to fight for other wrongly convicted prisoners around the world.

More immediately, however, she has compiled what she calls her ‘bucket list’ (the title of a film in which the terminally-ill Jack Nicholson spends his last few weeks living out his fantasies) of activities she could only dream of when she was in prison, and now intends to fulfil with gusto.

It is thought to include an epic hiking expedition — her favourite pastime before she was jailed, along with strumming her guitar, listening to Beatles music and playing soccer — but first there will be a huge party for her friends and family: the 21st birthday she never had.

In the diary that detectives encouraged her to keep during the early days of her incarceration — in the hope she might unwittingly let slip some incriminating detail — Knox poignantly imagines the big home-coming celebration, and even lists the 42 guests.

Of course, taking pride of place will be her maths teacher mother and stepfather, Chris Mellas, her father Curt, a financial executive, and his wife Cassandra, plus her sister Deanna, 22, and stepsisters Ashley, 16, and Delaney, 13, all of whom were at court yesterday and led the cheering.

But she also hopes to be reunited with David Johnsrud, the boyfriend with whom she broke up when they left the University of Washington to travel on exchange programmes, he to China, she to Perugia.

Nervous wait: Supporters of Amanda Knox in Seattle had listened anxiously as the appeal verdict was read out

Nervous wait: Supporters of Knox in Seattle had listened anxiously as the appeal verdict was read out

Though Knox replaced him in her affections with Raffaele Sollecito (now a prison-chiselled, crew- cutted young man of 27 and no longer the Harry Potter lookalike she fell for in 2007), Johnsrud has — like almost all of Knox’s friends — remained remarkably loyal, helping to campaign for her freedom and writing to her regularly.

In her diary, a copy of which was passed to me as I investigated  the case, she also imagines ‘travelling, marrying, having children, writing, speaking, helping, dancing free, loving’.

Though she had then been in prison for only a short time, she lyrically describes the moment-by-moment agony of losing her liberty, and her sense of vulnerability.

‘Waiting, unfairly, innocent and knowing that outside I’m seen as a sinister monster. I don’t care what others think . . . the waiting is pain because it’s waiting without life. Life passes me by.

‘Here is no place for love. I need to be with people I love, so I wait. And the waiting is such pain that I almost can’t stand it — but I do.

‘I always feel so fragile, but I’m not lost. I’m innocent so I will be free. Free, free, free. I will have freedom.’

Knox’s prison diary is an intriguing and highly revealing document, though not in the way the prosecution hoped when they cynically handed her pen and paper.

Yes, at times she seems preoccupied with her own image and devoted surprisingly little space to Meredith — her cherished friend, she has always insisted, given that the murder was so fresh in her memory and her own situation so parlous.

In the diary she remarks on the ‘new Amanda fad’ unfolding in the Press, the fan mail she is receiving and ‘a website where people post comments such as “She’s hot” or “I’d do her”.

‘If I was ugly, would they write wishing this encouragement?’ she writes. ‘I don’t think so. Jeez! I’m not really that good looking. People are acting like I’m the prettiest thing since Helen of Troy.’

Such inappropriate remarks hardly helped her cause.

Future plans: Knox is said to be keen on undertaking a huge hiking expedition once she's back in America

Future plans: Knox is said to be keen on undertaking a huge hiking expedition once she's back in America

However, far from the view of her as some libidinous sociopath — an image she had inadvertently cultivated after the murder by smooching in the street with Sollecito and performing gymnastics at the police station — she comes across as an academically clever, but naive, hippy-dippy girl.

Indeed, re-reading her words in her childlike handwriting, you begin to understand why her family so despise her ‘Foxy Knoxy’ soubriquet — a nickname that became her MySpace sign-on, but originates from her cunning as a schoolgirl soccer player, and did so much  to damn her in the eyes of the Italian authorities.

Briefly outlining her biography, she describes how her parents split up when she was a year old and her mother was pregnant with Deanna. 

Her mother, now 48, later met  the much younger Chris Mellas, and they raised Amanda in modest circumstances, scrimping to put her through an expensive Jesuit education.

She remained close to her father and step-family, who lived nearby in a middle-class suburb. 

When she arrived in Italy, Chris Mellas says, Knox was ‘the smartest person you’d ever know’, but at the same time ‘dumb as a rock’ in terms of street sense.

Edda told Rolling Stone magazine that her daughter was ‘oblivious to the dark side of the world’. 

Tragic: Meredith Kercher's body was found in the Perugia apartment she shared with Knox

Meredith Kercher's body was found in the Perugia apartment she shared with Knox

Her old flame Johnsrud has also described her as being among the kindest, most considerate people he has met, and marvelled at her zest for life.

By the same token, others say she was irritatingly loud, insensitive, over-opinionated and utterly devoid of inhibitions (to Meredith’s irritation, she kept a sex aid in her transparent washbag and endlessly played the same few Beatles songs on her guitar).

Crucially, she also lacked a sense of caution: essential for a young woman moving to a new country.

Given this strange amalgam of traits — so very unItalian — it’s small wonder that, when Meredith was found savagely stabbed in her bedroom, her American flatmate was the investigators’ immediate focus of attention.

In the early hours after the murder, when Knox seemed to know too much about the position of the dead girl’s body and made insensitive remarks to her grieving British friends (when one expressed the hope that Meredith hadn’t suffered, Knox said: ‘What do you think? She f*****g bled to death’), small wonder she fell under the suspicion of senior detectives.

Yet the man who really set her in his sights and would become her nemesis was the veteran local prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini —  and it is he who must bear the heaviest responsibility for her wrongful conviction.

Almost from the moment the pipe-smoking Mignini viewed Meredith’s semi-naked body under a duvet (‘Only a woman would have covered her up after killing her,’ he told me), he formed the theory that she had been killed in some sort of twisted, ritualistic sex game, and Knox was among the culprits.


DOMINIQUE JACKSON: 'Amanda Knox played an absolute blinder on the last day of her appeal hearing, as she gave a dramatic and tearful plea for mercy, passionately protesting her innocence, her desire for justice and her desperation for freedom, for 'a return to my life'. No doubt she will soon take to the sofa on the chat show circuit, to cash in on her ordeal and, who knows, to opine on which aspiring starlet might portray her in the movie. I wonder if the hopeful producers will manage to get a British actress to play the role of Meredith, or indeed whether the Kercher family will see even a cent of the money Knox now seems set to make.'

Read more here

And having leapt with indecent haste to this sensational conclusion — a favourite hypothesis for this eccentric 61-year-old, who has used a clairvoyant to help crack previous crimes and all too frequently sees the Devil’s hand in the crimes he investigates — he had to stick with it and make the evidence fit.

Either that or lose face — a prospect no Italian in his position can contemplate, but particularly not Mignini, who is already under a suspended 18-month prison sentence after being found guilty of abuse of privilege in an inquiry into the so-called Monster of Florence serial killings. 

He was found to have illegally tapped the phones of journalists and police officers involved in that case, which remains unsolved.

That he has refused even to countenance Knox’s innocence for four years as the evidence has  been systematically dismantled, compounding the tragedy of Meredith’s murder by keeping two innocent young people in prison, is bad enough.

Yet according to retired FBI agent Steve Moore — who has solved countless murders and volunteered to help the Knox family fight for justice after his wife saw a TV documentary about the case — Mignini is not merely incompetent.

After reviewing every detail of the evidence with the help of an expert U.S. criminal profiler, Moore decided Knox should never have been brought to court.

He told me: ‘This was no accident, this was intentional.

‘I think Mignini is not that good an investigator and he convinced himself Amanda did it. From then on, his attitude has just been: “The end justifies the means.” ’

To many observers who sat through the original trial — which ended in December 2009, with Knox and Sollecito being sentenced to  26 and 25 years respectively —  and the ten-month long appeal, his criticism seems justified, for  the prosecutor has performed  more twists and turns than a contortionist.

Incredibly, witnesses have surfaced after months (one  claiming Knox bought bleach at his shop, supposedly to clean the kitchen knife used to murder Meredith) and motives have been revised and abandoned.

In the end, the prosecutor was forced to admit he had no idea what drove Knox, Sollecito and their putative accomplice, small-time thief Rudy Guede, whose guilt is not in doubt. He is serving 16 years in prison.

Vital evidence that could have cleared the young couple very quickly — such as Sollecito’s computer records, which he says prove they were spending their first passionate weekend together at his house, watching a film, smoking cannabis and making love, at the time Meredith died — was mysteriously destroyed.

The infamous police interrogation, a 53-hour marathon over four days, during which Knox wrongly implicated a bar owner and ‘imagined’ how the murder might have unfolded, as Mignini looked on from a distance, was not recorded.

Or at least, so we are told.

But most damningly, the entire forensic side of the investigation, from gathering the samples to analysis, was so hideously botched that heads will surely roll, though not Mignini’s, it is said — for in Perugia he is untouchable.

Indeed, in the ancient town  there remained a strong belief that his theory must be right yesterday, no matter how flimsy and flawed the evidence. The mood was redolent of the witch trials staged in the subterranean assize court in medieval times.

None of this will concern Foxy Knoxy now, however, for she is returning home to the U.S. not as a cold-blooded killer, but as a martyr to the iniquities of Italian justice.

When she flies back to Seattle, however, her first task will be to wade through the vast pile of offers for first rights to her story sitting on her PR agent’s desk — deals from publishers, TV networks, news-papers and magazines, and film-makers.

‘Amanda is not a 20-year-old kid any more, she’s a woman of 24 who knows her own mind. She has expressed the wish to have a strong say in how she is represented,’ a source close to her family told  me yesterday. 

Given that she is about to become a millionaire, it’s hardly surprising that she is taking such a strong interest in her business affairs.

Perhaps, as she puts pen to paper, though, she will spare a thought for Meredith’s parents.

They return home with nothing. Not even the comfort of knowing how or why their cherished daughter met such a grim, untimely end.

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