Amanda Knox was told she had HIV, feared she would die in jail
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Stewing in her cell in Italy, American college student Amanda Knox often worried she might face life in prison if convicted for the bloody 2007 murder of her 21-year-old roommate.
But one night, her jailers revealed an even worse possible fate: death.
Italian authorities told her she was HIV-positive.
It was one of the lowest points of her four years behind bars. She wondered whether she might die in jail.
But as it turns out, she wasn’t HIV-positive. The diagnosis might have simply been a ploy.
“My lawyers believe they were trying to get information out of me by intimidating and scaring me,” Knox told Torstar News Service in an interview Wednesday, timed with the release of her tell-all memoir, Waiting to Be Heard.
The HIV claim was just one of many questionable techniques employed by Italian police and prosecutors in a four-year nightmare that culminated with Knox’s acquittal on appeal in October 2011.
And the nightmare might not be over yet: even though Knox, 25, has returned to her hometown of Seattle, she is once again a defendant. Another Italian court is going to review evidence, though she is not required to attend.
For years, Knox was prime tabloid fare, served up day and night on TV and in newspapers around the world, portrayed as a “liar,” a “diabolical whore” and a “murderer.”
She was convicted, with two others, of the brutal 2007 slaying of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in the Italian college town of Perugia.
Italian prosecutors claimed Knox was the ringleader in a late-night sex game that escalated into fatal violence.
It was a gripping story of youth, kinky sex and violence — almost unbelievable.
In the end, an Italian appeals court decided it was.
Knox’s conviction and 26-year sentence were overturned, and so was that of her Italian boyfriend.
In her book, Knox recounts, step-by-step, how she was done in by small-town detectives and prosecutors bent on fitting flimsy, even phony evidence to a fantasy theory.
“A prosecutor projected his idea of a decadent female on me,” Knox said from New York. “I was a certain kind of person in his mind, and he just never let that go.
“He had this idea of what a loose, irresponsible American was like,” she said. “And it exploded.”
Knox notes in the book that “casual sex was, for my generation, simply what you did.” But she had been chided by friends in Seattle for being uptight. So while in Europe, she did have three sexual encounters — and writes about them openly.
But when police learned she had had sex while in Italy, the mould was cast, Knox said: she was the sexually aggressive female. And they made this the central tenet of their theory.
Why does she think they told her she had HIV?
“I think they were trying to get a list of people that I had had sex with,” she said. “They were looking for a sex criminal, not just a violent criminal . . . I think what they were trying to figure out is whether a lover of mine had participated in the murder.”
She stopped short of calling it an out-and-out ploy.
“All I can say is, it’s very suspicious.”
There was never any evidence that Knox or her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito had actually been inside the bedroom where Kercher was killed and her body found. But the room was filled with handprints and footprints from Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast national who fled the scene and was later arrested in Germany.
He is now serving 16 years in an Italian prison.
Even with Guede’s conviction, local police and prosecutors would not let go of Knox and Sollecito.
Knox was the first to stumble on the crime scene, returning from Sollecito’s apartment to her own at 10:30 a.m. and finding a few tiny drops of blood in the bathroom — and Kercher’s door locked.
She called her boyfriend immediately and the two called the police.
Within days, both were arrested and authorities began leaking “evidence” — almost all of it later refuted — to Italian newspapers, and Knox’s nightmare began to unfold.
The British tabloids — as well as the quality broadsheets — picked up the trail.
“I was hammered by the media early on,” said Knox. “I was incapable of defending myself. I had no idea how. And (what was published in) the tabloids in one country, became legitimate news in another.”
Knox says she was a naïve 20-year-old college junior when she landed in Italy in the summer of 2007 to attend her junior year at Perugia’s University for Foreigners.
“I’m a lot more confident now,” she said. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve gained from all of this.”
Could she be compelled to return to Italy?
“That could only ever happen if I were convicted,” she said. “And I don’t think I will be.”