Knox co-defendant Sollecito travelled to Austria

By By The Associated Press

FLORENCE, Italy — Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend left Italy and drove to Austria while an appeals court deliberated his fate,

police said Friday, but he eventually returned to Italy and surrendered his passport following their joint conviction for

murdering British student Meredith Kercher.

Raffaele Sollecito's lengthy travels were revealed on the same day that Knox made clear she would never voluntarily return

to Italy to serve the 28½-year sentence handed down by an appeals court.

"I will never go willingly back to the place," she said on ABC's Good Morning America program. "I'm going to fight this until

the very end. It's not right, and it's not fair."

Lawyers for the pair have vowed to appeal

the conviction, which upheld the 2009 verdict in the murder of Kercher,

Knox's roommate

in the university town of Perugia.

Kercher was found in a pool of blood with her throat slit on Nov. 2, 2007, in their apartment. Knox and Sollecito were arrested

a few days later and served four years in prison before an appeals court acquitted them in 2011. Italy's high court later

threw out that acquittal and ordered a new trial, resulting in Thursday's conviction.

Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, insisted his client was in the area of Italy's northeastern border with Austria on Thursday

because that's where his current girlfriend lives. He said Sollecito went voluntarily to police to surrender his passport

and ID papers.

But the head of the Udine police squad,

Massimiliano Ortolan, said police were tipped off that Sollecito had

checked into

a hotel in Venzone, on the Italian side of the border, and they

went to find him there, waking him and his girlfriend up Friday

morning and bringing him to the police station in Udine.

No arrest warrant had been issued by the Florence court. But the court demanded that Sollecito turn over his passport and

ID papers to prevent him from leaving the country.

At the police station, Sollecito told

investigators that he had driven into Austria on Thursday afternoon

after attending

the opening session of the trial in Florence. After the court

began deliberating, Sollecito said he travelled the 400 kilometers

(250 miles) from Florence to Udine on Italy's northeastern border

with Austria and crossed the frontier, Ortolan said.

He said Sollecito and his girlfriend had told investigators they had visited Villach, a town near the border, and had then

returned to Italy and checked into the Venzone hotel at about 1 a.m. He said Sollecito didn't explain why he had taken the

trip.

"I think it's somewhat significant that, before the sentence was handed down, he left Florence where he had been and traveled

many kilometers to get close to two frontiers, Slovenia and Austria," Ortolan said. "It is a bit perplexing."

In Italy, adults checking into hotels must

hand over ID upon check-in. Hotels are then required to communicate the

information

to local police. At about 6:30 a.m., police showed up at the

Carnia hotel and brought Sollecito to the Udine police station,

where he handed over his passport and ID papers.

Since the court didn't order Sollecito detained, he was freed Friday afternoon and was seen driving away with his girlfriend.

Ortolan said the Udine police would officially advise the Florence court about Sollecito's travels, and that it would be up

to the court to order any additional restrictions on his movements beyond the prohibition from leaving the country.

The court on Thursday upheld the conviction

against Knox and Sollecito, sentencing Knox to 28½ years in prison and

Sollecito

to 25 years. It noted that Knox was "justifiably abroad" after an

appeals court in 2011 acquitted the pair and ordered them

freed.

The new conviction immediately set the stage for a drawn-out extradition process for Knox, assuming the verdicts are upheld

on final appeal, a process that could take another year.

For Kercher's family, the verdict was another step in what has been more than six years of uncertainty about how Meredith

died and finding justice.

"I think we are still on the journey of the

truth and it may be the fact that we don't ever really know what

happened that

night, which will be something we have to come to terms with,"

said Stephanie Kercher, the victim's sister who attended the

verdict with her brother Lyle.

In her Friday morning interview, Knox said the verdict "hit me like a train. I didn't expect this to happen."

Lawyers for both Knox and Sollecito have vowed to appeal, but must wait to see the written reasoning behind the verdict before

doing so. The Florence court has 90 days to issue its motivations.