It was a composed and polished Amanda Knox who last week appeared on prime time American television to publicise her long-awaited book.
Gone was the wide-eyed exchange student who was first convicted then acquitted of murdering British student Meredith Kercher, replaced instead by a thoughtful young woman with a compelling story to tell of her suffering at the hands of the Italian justice system.
Knox has reportedly been paid a £2.6 million advance for the book, Waiting To Be Heard – which will not be published in Britain.
As The Mail on Sunday revealed two weeks ago, the book describes a hellish vision of her four-year imprisonment in Italy, including a claim that she was sexually harassed by a senior male warder. ‘My guard wanted to know who I had sex with, how I like it,’ she wrote. ‘And if I’d do it with him.’
So traumatic was her ordeal, she says, that as a young American girl out of her depth in a new and foreign culture, she was driven to the point of suicide.
Yet little, if anything, has been heard from those who spent time alongside her in Cappane jail in the ancient university town of Perugia, where British student Meredith was killed. Until now.
Prison guard Angela Antonelli saw Knox every day for two years and says she became closer to her than most. Antonelli paints an intriguing portrait of her, saying she survived behind bars with an almost astonishing degree of self-possession, burying herself in writing letters, singing Beatles songs and playing a guitar.
But it did not, she says, endear the young American to her fellow inmates – who took to calling her the Ice Queen.
‘She never once cried when I was there,’ recalled the warder, speaking at her cluttered home in the city. ‘I often spent the nights there and looked into her cell through the hole to check on her and the others.
‘Other people ask for tranquillisers, cry, shout that they didn’t do it, that they’re in pain, that they can’t go on. “Why did this happen to me?” they shout.
‘Many prisoners bang their heads against the walls or even sew up their mouths, scream, vomit, cut their wrists. But she showed no reaction.’
This impression of extraordinary self-confidence and steadfastness is supported by fascinating correspondence seen by The Mail on Sunday, including one particular letter.
In letters written to her former boyfriend and co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, Knox shows something close to contempt for her accusers and the overwhelmingly hostile public opinion in Perugia.
says her jailer, it is not the full story… In one, written a year after the murder, she writes: ‘The truth is in plain sight THEY HAVE NOTHING – only their twisted imaginations.’ There is no mention of life in jail, of other prisoners, or indeed of Meredith.
A number of Knox’s prison letters to Sollecito were intercepted by the authorities in an attempt to gain some clue about the events leading up to the murder in 2007. This one, shown to The Mail on Sunday by Antonelli, had been among them.
In prison, Knox kept herself to herself, said Antonelli.
While the majority of prisoners were attempting to make some sort of communal life together, she declined to socialise, preferring the company of her daily journal.
‘Other prisoners made cakes, biscuits, pizza and always shared with their cellmates. Amanda ate what the others made but never made anything herself,’ the warder said.
‘Also in prison people borrow each other’s clothes but Amanda never shared her clothes nor accepted clothes. In my view, she behaved as though she were superior and looked down on the others.’
After finding herself alone in a foreign prison, Knox’s caution is perhaps understandable – particularly as, before her acquittal, vicious media coverage in Italy had branded her a ‘devil’ whose alleged part in the murder was fuelled by sex.
But whether it is understandable or not, Knox’s reticence appears to have troubled those around her.
Antonelli said: ‘She absolutely never spoke about that night with anyone. She would not talk about Meredith’s murder. Amanda never once spoke about Meredith and never spoke about Guede.’
Rudy Guede was a drifter from the Ivory Coast who, in a separate trial, was convicted of Ms Kercher’s murder and who remains in prison.
Antonelli added: ‘Even if Amanda didn’t kill Meredith, she hasn’t done anything to help people understand what happened that night.
‘She thought only about her own survival. She’s impenetrable, you will never be able to understand what really happened that night. Amanda showed almost no emotions.
‘The only time I ever saw her being nervous was when she was waiting for her mother to send her the second Harry Potter book.
‘She was really quite anxious, saying, “When is my book coming.”
‘She lived through her books, she transported herself away through her books like her hero Harry Potter.’
She was not vain however, and other inmates were surprised that she appeared to make little effort with her appearance.
‘People thought she was very good looking but she never mentioned her looks,’ said Antonelli, who at 62 has now retired from the Italian prison service.
Antonelli said that although Knox deliberately isolated herself from both her fellow prisoners and the staff, she became closer to her than to most others at Capanne.
Knox even gave Antonelli presents, including a doily she had made and a hand-written transcript of the Beatles song Let It Be.
She got attached to me because I’m a maternal sort of woman,’ she explained.
‘She tried to become close but I distanced myself.
‘Sometimes I felt she was like a vampire because of her strong personality – as if she was trying to suck emotion from me.
‘She was very different to other 22-year-olds who were in the prison. She knows what she wants and is very determined.
I’ve never seen a girl like her, especially as she was so young. It was as though she was constantly doing a job interview, showing the best side of herself.’There is the same sense of determination in the letter from Knox to Sollecito, dated November 11, 2008, seen by The Mail on Sunday.
She refers to her current ‘extraordinarily difficult’ experience and the ups and downs of life. Good will come of the situation she finds herself in, she assures Sollecito, and she will be brave and patient.
She tells Sollecito that her accusers just cannot look at themselves properly and see that they are wrong.
Last month Italy’s Supreme Court ordered Knox and Sollecito to be re-tried – in the light of which her decision to publish Waiting To Be Heard, with its criticisms of Italian officialdom, might be seen as something of a risk.
That said, it seems unlikely that she will ever travel to Italy to face the court.
Antonelli is clear that Knox was ‘never physically abused’ at Cappane, but she also says that ‘one guy asked her how she liked to be pleased in bed’ – which could support Knox’s claims to have been subjected to inappropriate remarks.
The man accused has denied any allegations of harassment.
Curiously, when Knox’s prison diary was published in Italy in facsimile form it gave little hint of the hardship she describes in her new book.
She wrote compulsively in her cell, maintaining her journal four times a day. The handwritten pages, complete with doodles and scrawled Beatles lyrics, say such things as: ‘The prison staff are really nice. They check in to make sure I’m okay very often and are very gentle with me.
‘I don’t like the police as much, though they were nice to me in the end, but only because I had named someone for them, when I was very scared and confused.’
The someone she referred to was an innocent man – Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba, whom she falsely accused of murdering Meredith.
She later insisted the accusation was a result of police intimidation.
In fact, her prison diary, describes her Italian jail as ‘pretty swell’, with a library, a television in her room, a bathroom and a reading lamp.
No one had beaten her up, she wrote, and one guard gave her a pep talk when she was crying in her cell.
Today, she is an innocent woman; but to those who were with her in Cappane, she remained an enigma until the moment when, amid turbulent scenes at the Perugia courthouse, she was acquitted.
‘Even when she was released, she didn’t say goodbye to a single person in the prison,’ recalled Antonelli.
‘In my opinion she showed no compassion or sensitivity to others. She just walked out.
‘Is that human?’
about Obama – Foxy Knoxy’s letters from her cell
It meant so much to her that, according to warder Angela Antonelli, she tore out a page from her notebook and wrote out the lyrics, in English and Italian, and gave it to Ms Antonelli as a gift.
Writing in a clear and careful hand, her letter to Sollecito concentrates on the injustice of the charges against the two of them, and on her hopes of freedom.
She also refers to a dream about being greeted by President Barack Obama on her return to America.
She writes: ‘I dreamed he welcomed me personally, shaking my hand, back to the States.’