Ahead of Amanda Knox's retrial, David Barrett charts the media and general public's fascination by women who transgress - often at the expense of the victim - particularly if they kill, or are accused of doing so.
Amanda Knox, Meredith Kercher
© Reuters/PA
The impending retrial for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher fills many court-watchers with dread, myself included.

Details of the crime are horrific enough. But during the lengthy court processes which we have already witnessed, my discomfort was intensified by the obsession with Amanda Knox.

The photogenic young American, now 25, was convicted and then acquitted of the 2007 murder. She received more sympathy than most suspects who have ever stood in the dock on such a serious charge.

The media pack which followed the Italian trial would often comment on Knox's apparent frailty; the "stress" she was suffering or whether she looked "pale". It made me gag.

Amanda Knox
© The Associated PressAmanda Knox
It's a difficulty with which any professional and humane court reporter is familiar: how do you keep the victim, who is absent, visible in the very human drama that is a murder trial?

Is it appropriate to pay more attention to the suspect than to the issue at hand; namely, securing justice on behalf of a person whose life has been taken from them? I say it is not, although I can understand why it happens.

Knox is not the first female defendant to attract attention in this way.

The media, and therefore the public at large, are fascinated by a woman who transgresses, particularly if they kill.

Myra Hindley remains the supreme example - "the most evil woman in Britain" - who was a hate figure from her arrest in 1965 to her death in 2002.
© PAMyra Hindley, and her partner Ian Brady, were responsible for the murders of five youngsters in the 1960s
We do find ourselves asking how a woman could stand and watch a little girl beg for her life, and her mummy, as 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey did when the Moors Murderers raped and strangled her on Boxing Day 1964.

Rose West, who with husband Fred murdered 10 women, and Beverley Allitt, the "Angel of Death" who was given 13 life sentences in 1993 for murdering four children and other crimes, are but two other examples.

Maxine Carr, who gave her killer boyfriend Ian Huntley a false alibi in the 2002 Soham murders, has been equally vilified even though she played no part in the murders themselves.

Female murderers remain forever young: while they rot in Holloway, their mug shots stand still in time.

It's the contradiction that captures our imaginations: a member of the female sex, who can give life, committing a crime in which life is taken.

When the Italian prosecutors again attempt to secure a conviction for that tragic murder in Perugia we will have to get used to seeing Knox's face on a daily basis once more. But let's ensure that Meredith remains at forefront of all our minds.

Meredith Kercher
© PALet's remember Meredith