The self-styled 'Mr Nobody' who pleaded for his life back

As he pleaded yesterday to the Perugia appeals court for his life back, Raffaele Sollecito, 27, said in a halting voice: "I am a Mr Nobody, but now they want Mr Nobody to spend the rest of his life in jail."

The "Mr Nobody" is a quietly spoken computer science student from a well-connected southern Italian family, who became embroiled in the most talked about murder case in recent Italian history. Sollecito, Amanda Knox's boyfriend at the time of Meredith Kercher's murder, told the jury just hours before yesterday evening's verdict: "I never hurt anybody, never in my life. I always thought in some way the verdicts would be overturned and in some way with time everything would be cleared up."

As a privileged member of Italy's upper-middle classes – his parent had bought his flat in Perugia in order for him to study there – it's quite probable that Sollecito expected to be freed. His family were able to afford the best lawyers. And before the original conviction, Italian newspapers were reporting how his father Francesco Sollecito, an eminent surgeon, was seeking to pull any kind of strings in order to ensure his son's release. He failed the first time around. But there appeared to be no doubt in his mind regarding his son's innocence. Although he was jailed for 25 years, Dr Sollecito insisted Raffaele "would not hurt a fly" and "had nothing to do with the murder".

But some of the many lurid press reports have portrayed Sollecito as strange. Soon after the murder, photos emerged online of him posing as a mad doctor clutching a machete.

The public – and the jury – was also able to read about his penchant for Japanese Manga comics, and he admitted smoking cannabis, thereby igniting theories that Meredith died in a drug-fuelled sex attack.

But as his defenders note, nerdish tendencies are hardly proof that he killed someone. His alibis were shaky, but so was the evidence placing him at the murder scene. In truth, the fate of quiet Sollecito was decided the moment he met a pretty 20-year-old American student at a music concert, in October 2007, a month before Meredith's murder.