Knox hopes for book deal and film rights to settle family's $1m legal fees

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American student heads home to Seattle to begin new life

When she last strode through Seattle's Tacoma International Airport, Amanda Knox will have felt no different from any other 20-year-old setting off on what they hope will be the greatest adventure of their young life.

You only had to witness the media scrum which had developed at Arrivals last night, as the hours ticked down to her homecoming, to appreciate the extent to which things have changed in the intervening four years.

Satellite trucks, reporters, and rows of photographers were hoping to capture the moment when Ms Knox once more set foot on American soil. After being fast-tracked through passport control she was expected to hold a brief press conference before driving roughly twenty minutes to her father's house, which well-wishers had filled with balloons and welcome home banners.

For the time being, then, Amanda Knox is a bona fide celebrity. US television networks are offering six-figure bids for her first interview. Supermarket magazines are seeking lucrative photo deals. And, for now, her every move will be followed by a hungry swarm of paparazzi.

Ms Knox's immediate plans include staging the 21st birthday party she never had, and pursuing long-neglected hobbies. "I've got these canvases because I don't know the last time Amanda has painted," her sister, Deanna, told ABC News. "We're going to go to Lincoln Park, which is right by our house. We're going to sit in the middle and paint."

In the medium term, the future is less clear. Once satellite vans have left town, and book and film deals have been sewn up, Ms Knox will, with a following wind, have generated sufficient cash to settle her family's legal debts, which are estimated at over $1 million (£646,000). But she's unlikely to become the multimillionaire some reports suggest.

"When we read articles saying she's going to get rich, that's just nonsense," says Candace Dempsey, the author of a book, Murder In Italy, about the case."You have to take into account how far in the hole she already is. Both her parents have remortgaged their homes to pay legal bills, and her grandmother has given away a substantial amount of her savings. She wants to repay all that money before taking any for herself."

Ms Dempsey, who was in court with the Knox family on Monday, told The Independent that Ms Knox has no desire to pursue some of the wilder opportunities available to an overnight celebrity. She is instead modelling her PR strategy around Jaycee Lee Dugard, the kidnap victim who has done just a handful of blue-chip interviews since her release last year.

"This talk that Amanda will do Dancing With The Stars or become some reality TV star, it's totally at odds with who she is. She's a very bright girl, and quite serious. So you will see her do some immediate press, and then disappear for a couple of months. In the longer term, she wants to go back to university."

That seems entirely in character for a girl from a humble, middle-class family who fought long and hard to enjoy opportunities that her background might not ordinarily afford. Ms Knox was born in 1987, the first of two daughters of Curt, an accountant, and Edda, a schoolteacher. They lived in Arbor Heights, an unexciting neighbourhood of West Seattle.

Her parents separated in 1989, shortly after the birth of Amanda's sister Deanna. They later divorced, but remained friendly and throughout her troubles have worked closely together. Amanda's step-parents, Cassandra Knox and Chris Mellas, have also chipped in; at times, the two couples shared accommodation in Perugia.

Amanda was an outgoing child, whose now-notorious nickname, "Foxy Knoxy" was coined by friends on an under-9s suburban soccer team. Though money was tight, she worked hard to win a scholarship to Seattle Prep, one of the area's most prestigious private high schools.

Teachers there remember her as a popular student, who starred in school theatre productions. "She was sweet. She never did anything to harm anyone else. She was not conniving. She was not mean-spirited," her drama teacher John Lange told reporters yesterday. Ms Knox went on to the University of Washington, a prestigious institution with a leafy campus in the centre of Seattle. She paid fees of about $10,000 a year by working part-time at the nearby World Cup wine and coffee bar. After choosing to focus her studies on German and Italian, Ms Knox decided to spend a portion of her third year overseas. She ended up on an exchange programme in Perugia, Seattle's twin city.

She was arrested six weeks later. Since then, she has received regular visits from relatives and family friends, and stayed in touch with co-defendant and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who was also released from prison this week. "They're still good friends, but it's not a love affair any more," said Ms Dempsey. "I think it's highly unlikely that they'll start dating again."

Her closest female friend is Madison Paxton, who has lived in Perugia for the past year, vowing not to return to Seattle until they could complete the final two years of their studies together. That could happen sooner than they think. Norm Arkins, a spokesman for the university, told The Independent that Ms Knox is now welcome to re-enrol "as soon as she wants".

She is prepared for tough moments on campus, but after everything that's happened, that won't faze her, insists Ms Dempsey. "Of course, it will be awkward. Justice is never perfect, and people will say what they say. But she liked it at university, she was happy there, and after all this time, she's still the sort of person who wants to see something like that through."

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