A smiling Amanda Knox flew out of Italy a free woman yesterday after four years in prison, leaving behind a divided public and angry prosecutors who vowed to appeal against her acquittal.
Ms Knox left the country on a scheduled flight to Seattle via London after a dramatic few hours which saw her acquitted of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, leave prison for the last time and spend the night surrounded by her family.
Minutes after bursting into tears in court on hearing that she had been acquitted of murder on Monday, Ms Knox was whisked away in a black Mercedes back to Capanne jail outside of Perugia to finish formalities.
Her fellow prisoners cheered and clapped as she left them for the last time. Within an hour of acquittal, prison life was behind her and she was on her way to the bed and breakfast apartment near the prison that her family have rented over the past years as they took turns to keep her company.
The world's front pages were plastered with her face convulsed with tears, but in the Mercedes she was apparently dry-eyed.
The exoneration of Ms Knox and her ex-lover Raffaele Sollecito leaves the victim's family in limbo. The decision of the first court in the same courtroom two years ago was "emphatic", Ms Kercher's brother Lyle said. "If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?" he asked.
As Ms Knox's family celebrated in Italy and at home in Seattle, the prosecutor Giuliano Mignini raged that the appeal court's verdict was "an absolute contradiction" in finding her guilty of defaming Patrick Lumumba, but innocent of all other charges.
He said he would appeal the verdict to the court of Cassation, Italy's highest court. "We will appeal," he said. "The (higher) court will decide whether to confirm the first sentence or the second sentence."
He added: "Let's wait and see who's right, the first court or the appeal court. This trial was held under unacceptable media pressure. The decision was practically pre-cooked. This is not normal."
If the highest court overturns the acquittal, the prosecutors would be free to request Ms Knox's extradition to Italy to finish her sentence. It is up to the government to decide whether to make the formal extradition request.
In 2009 Mr Mignini secured two murder convictions that saw Ms Knox jailed for 26 years and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito jailed for 25. However, the prosecution's case was blown apart by an independent review of DNA evidence at the appeal.
A lawyer for the sole man now convicted for the stabbing of Ms Kercher, Rudy Guede, said that he would seek a retrial.
Prosecutors had maintained the three killed Ms Kercher during a lurid drug-fuelled sex game.
Even in jail Ms Knox insisted that she loved Italy and hoped to return after she was exonerated.
In a letter released yesterday to the Italian-American Foundation, she said of her Italian supporters: "I am forever grateful to whoever wrote to me, defended me, was close to me, prayed for me."
By 9am, Ms Knox was spotted checking in at Rome's Fiumicino airport. The party boarded a BA plane leaving for London at 11.45am. At Heathrow Ms Knox was given the run of the Windsor Suite, reserved for royalty and celebrities.
"By 3.30pm she was airborne again, bound for Seattle, and a tumultuous reception.
Meanwhile in Perugia her lawyer, Carolo della Vedova, said:
"We will be ready to defend and support our client's rights," he said. "We are not worried."