Sexually harassed by a guard and a fellow female prison-inmate, and at one point wrongly told by officials that she had tested positive for HIV, Amanda Knox says she was driven to such despair during her four years in an Italian jail that she repeatedly contemplated suicide.
These are just some of the revelations in Ms Knox’s memoir Waiting to be Heard, to be published in the US in 10 days time. The book, running to almost 500 pages, is the latest episode in the lurid tabloid-drama that has seen the American student convicted and then acquitted – only to be ordered in March to stand trial again – for the 2007 murder of her British housemate Meredith Kerchner, while both were foreign exchange students in Perugia.
In the book, advance copies of which were obtained by The New York Times and other media outlets, the 25-year old Ms Knox writes how she “started to understand how you could feel so locked inside your own life that you could be so desperate to escape, even if it meant that you would no longer exist”.
Ms Kerchner’s semi-naked body was found on the morning of 2 November 2007 in her bedroom, wrapped in a duvet and with her throat slit. According to Italian prosecutors, Ms Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito killed Kercher in a drug-fuelled sex romp, using a knife taken from Mr Sollecito’s house.
But Ms Knox and her defenders all along maintained her innocence, claiming that statements she had made during long hours of interrogations were twisted and taken out of context by investigators, and that the DNA evidence supposedly found on the knife was hopelessly flawed, as a result of shoddy police-work.
Nonetheless, Italy’s highest court in March overturned the appeal acquittal, a decision that means Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito face a retrial, probably within the next 12 months. Italian law however cannot compel her to return, and a family spokesman has said it’s doubtful she will go to Italy.
After her release in 2011, Ms Knox has lived quietly with her family in Seattle, completing her courses at the University of Washington where she is studying creative writing. But that spell of comparative anonymity is now over.
Waiting to be Heard which appears on 30 April alongside a high-profile TV interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, is her first detailed account of the events that turned her into a global celebrity. “Finally I’m in a position to respond to everyone’s questions,” Ms Knox writes in an author’s afterword. “This memoir is about setting the record straight.”
On the night of the murder – for which the Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Guede has been convicted and is currently serving a 16-year sentence – Ms Knox says she was at Mr Sollecito’s apartment, smoking marijuana, watching the French film Amelie, and reading a Harry Potter book aloud in German.
Thereafter she was enveloped in a legal nightmare that, she concedes, was made worse by her own mistakes. She was naïve and at times behaved inappropriately. Her pride prevented her from acknowledging that her poor command of Italian meant she couldn’t keep up with proceedings. Instead, she followed the instructions of the Italian police “like a lost pathetic child”.
In prison, she recounts, one guard was fixated on the topic of sex, asking her about partners and if she would have sex with him. The guard in question has denied the allegations. Ms Knox also says a female cellmate proposed a lesbian affair. Convicted in 2009 and facing 26 years behind bars, her thoughts turned to suicide.
In the book, she sets out many possible ways to kill oneself in jail, including poisoning with bleach, swallowing shards of glass or a broken pen, hanging and hitting your head against a wall or, as she says she once imagined, suffocating herself with a rubbish bag. “Less effective but, I thought, more dignified was bleeding yourself to death,” Ms Knox writes. “I imagined it would be possible to get away with it, with enough time in the shower.”
In a separate interview, published in the next issue of People magazine, she says she is still haunted by what happened. “Things creep up on me and all of a sudden I’m overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness and desperation and fear to even hope. Just that can make my heart race and makes me paralyzed until I can breathe it away.”
Harper Collins paid a reported advance of $4m (£2.6m) for Waiting to be Heard, in a deal secured by Washington power-lawyer and fixer Robert Barnett, who has handled book contracts for the Clintons, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama among others. But it will not be released for now in Britain, in part for fear of libel, and of further complications for any retrial – and perhaps for the sake of sensitivity, as a British family still mourns a lost daughter.
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