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 in the killing of 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, waking him and his girlfriend up Friday morning and taking 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 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 did not 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 took Sollecito to the Udine police station, where he handed over his passport and ID papers.
Since the court did not order Sollecito detained, he was freed Friday afternoon and was seen driving away with his girlfriend.