Young student trapped in nightmare

Andover Advertiser: Amanda Knox has always protested her innocence (AP) Amanda Knox has always protested her innocence (AP)

She was the doe-eyed Seattle yoga enthusiast whose online moniker "Foxy Knoxy", allied with lurid headlines about her sex life, made her fodder for the world's print and broadcast media when she was caught up in one of the most high-profile murder cases of the 21st century.

Arriving in Perugia seven years ago, Amanda Knox was just one of thousands of American students enjoying being young, free and single away from home.

She was soon to fall into the arms of Italian national Raffaele Sollecito - the man she said she was making love with on the night her housemate, British student Meredith Kercher, was murdered.

On November 6, 2007, Miss Knox was arrested in connection with the killing and was accused of playing a leading role in what prosecutors alleged was a bungled sex game that ended in the violent death of the University of Leeds student.

Miss Knox denied any wrongdoing, but during a lengthy police interrogation she eventually pointed the finger at local bar owner Diya ''Patrick'' Lumumba.

Explaining how she came to make the false accusation, Miss Knox later told jurors she had been confused and under pressure.

It was the officers questioning her who had suggested Mr Lumumba and so, worn down by the long interrogation, she agreed, she said.

That slip-up spelled the start of a nightmarish four years in jail for the innocent young woman.

The first stage of her spell behind bars lasted almost a year, during which she endured an agonising wait to learn whether she would be charged with murder or released.

This culminated in the decision that she and Mr Sollecito should indeed stand trial.

So began a further 13-month wait behind bars for the pair, interrupted only for a couple of days a week when they attended the many hearings in the lengthy judicial process.

But, despite her young age and the hardship of being locked up in a foreign country, Miss Knox has appeared to hold her own throughout most of her ordeal.

In June 2009 she confidently gave evidence in fluent Italian, which she had mainly learned in prison.

Found guilty of the murder, the former lovers Miss Knox and Sollecito were each sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Rudy Guede, a small-time drug dealer, was handed a 16-year jail term after being found guilty over the death in a separate trial.

They were later acquitted on the basis of flawed DNA evidence. With Miss Knox and Mr Sollecito finally in the clear, at least temporarily, so the international television sofa-hopping began.

Both gave lengthy interviews on their release, Miss Knox - still aged only 26 - defending her decision not to return to Italy and face a possible re-trial.

She told ITV's Daybreak last year: "I have plenty to fear because I was already imprisoned wrongfully, I was already convicted wrongfully and this is everything to fear, this, as an innocent person, is the ultimate nightmare, this does not make sense."

Asked if she would be willing to take a lie detector test, Ms Knox said: "I would do anything to prove my innocence. I don't think that is necessary, but like I said, I am doing everything I can to prove my innocence.

"I am not afraid of anything. I have been put through a tremendous gauntlet."

Ahead of today's verdict, essentially her third trial for the murder she denies any involvement with, Miss Knox, who has stayed away from the hearings in Florence, said: "I will be waiting to receive a phone call from my lawyers and my heart will be in my mouth."

In an interview with Italian television, she said: "But the proof is in the facts - it's clear that there's no evidence that I was there when (the murder) happened.

"If I am convicted, I understand I will be a fugitive, but I will continue fighting until the end."

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