AMANDA Knox's former boyfriend has told of his psychological devastation after being found guilty a second time of the murder of Meredith Kercher as he pledged to "fight to the end" to clear his name.
Raffaele Sollecito, who insists he is innocent, said he was not expecting the appeals court in Florence to reinstate the guilty verdicts handed down to him and Knox in their original 2009 trial for the killing of the British student in Perugia in 2007.
Sollecito denied that a trip he had taken to Austria as the verdict was read out was part of plans to flee the country, had the judges ordered his immediate arrest. He and girlfriend Greta Menegaldo, a flight attendant, crossed the Austrian border, but subsequently returned to Italy to spend the night in a hotel in a mountain village about 25 miles from the frontier.
The Florence court sentenced him on Thursday to 25 years in prison and Knox to 28 years and six months, handing her a heavier sentence after finding her guilty of libelling a Congolese bar owner by falsely accusing him of being the killer.
"I have to fight until the end, because we proved and we showed that I had nothing to do with it," Sollecito said in a television interview. "It was completely unexpected. Psychologically, it's devastating."
The 29-year-old computer studies graduate said he could not bear the thought of being sent back to jail for a crime he continues to claim he had nothing to do with.
Knox and Sollecito spent four years behind bars before being freed on appeal in 2011 for the death of Ms Kercher, 21, of Surrey. She was found in a pool of her own blood in the student house she shared with Knox and two Italian women.
Knox, 26, who did not attend the trial and was at home in Seattle when the verdict was delivered, also said she would fight the reinstated conviction, which she said "hit me like a train".
She faces the prospect of being incarcerated in a grim American federal prison five miles from her parents for the duration of any extradition battle between the US and Italy, it has been reported.
If Italy makes an extradition request and the case is argued in the US courts, she would be detained by US marshals and sent to Sea-Tac federal detention centre. A guard was nearly beaten to death at the monolithic jail two years ago, his skull fractured by an inmate with a length of piping.
"Every day our lives are on the line because we're outnumbered by inmates," a guard said recently.
Lawyers for the two defendants have criticised all the theories as lacking proof and verging on the ludicrous.
They have pledged to lodge a further appeal against the reinstated guilty verdicts, referring the case to the Supreme Court in Rome.
That process is likely to take at least a year and remains Sollecito's last hope, he said.
In the NBC interview, he insisted that he never had any intention of fleeing justice.
"As soon as I got the news there was a guilty verdict, I came immediately back into Italy," he said.
The court has 90 days to release its reasons for upholding the guilty convictions.
The Kercher family said that if the reinstated convictions are confirmed by the Supreme Court in Rome, they would expect Italy to request Knox's extradition.