Nicholas Rossi: who is man in ‘Arthur Knight’ case in Scotland, and what did he say about being tattooed?
US rape suspect Nicholas Rossi is accused of faking his own death then fleeing to Scotland to evade prosecution
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A man who has been fighting extradition to the US has been confirmed as rape suspect Nicholas Rossi, a court has ruled. The 35-year-old has spent the last 11 months trying to convince the Scottish courts that he is Arthur Knight, an orphan from Ireland, who has never been to the US.
But on Friday, a sheriff at Edinburgh Sheriff Court said his claims about his identify were “fanciful” and found him to be Rossi, a man the US authorities have been seeking in relation to two rape allegations and one of sexual assault.
Rossi was first arrested in October last year after checking himself in to a hospital in Glasgow with Covid-19. It is alleged he faked his own death in the US and fled to Scotland to evade prosecution.
Medical staff and police were able to identify him by comparing his tattoos with pictures of Rossi on an Interpol red notice. A stream of preliminary hearings then took place, which saw Rossi sack at least six lawyers and claim to have been tortured in prison.
The hearing saw him claim his fingerprints had been meddled with and that he had been tattooed while unconscious in hospital in order to resemble Rossi.
What did the sheriff say?
Speaking at the hearing to establish Rossi’s identity, sheriff Norman McFadyen said: “I am ultimately satisfied on the balance of probabilities, by the evidence of fingerprint, photographic and tattoo evidence, taken together, supported by the evidence of changes of name, that Mr Knight is indeed Nicholas Rossi, the person sought for extradition by the United States.”
The sheriff said he would have been prepared to accept the fingerprint evidence alone or the headshots and photos of Rossi’s tattoos on US paperwork taken together as “sufficient” for identifying the wanted man.
Sheriff Norman McFadyen dismissed Nicholas Rossi’s claim that his fingerprints were taken from him by an NHS worker called Patrick on behalf of prosecutors in the US while he was in intensive care.
He said: “I have no valid or coherent reason to doubt that the prints examined were those provided by the US authorities and that these are, as they assert, prints of Nicholas Rossi who is charged in their proceedings, and I reject Mr Knight’s explanation as to how his prints came to be taken while he was in hospital… as implausible and fanciful.”
Who is Nicholas Rossi?
It is alleged he raped a 21-year-old in Utah. In addition, US prosecutors submitted supplementary extradition requests in late October for Rossi, one of which relates to an allegation of rape in Salt Lake City and another to an allegation of sexual assault elsewhere. Rossi was first arrested in October last year after checking himself into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow with Covid-19.
It is alleged he faked his own death in the US and fled to Scotland to evade prosecution. While hiding in Scotland, under the alias Knight and posing as a tutor, Rossi developed Covid pneumonitis and became “the sickest patient on the ward”, according to medical staff who were caring for him at the time.
It was at this point that Interpol issued Police Scotland officers with a red notice, detailing pictures of the wanted man, including images of his tattoos and fingerprints. Medical staff and the two officers who arrested Rossi, Pc Shannon McGill and Pc Jamie Crombie, were able to identify the patient by looking at the tattoos.
What did he say about being tattooed?
He claimed he was tattooed while “comatosed” in hospital, telling the court this is why he has similar tattoos to Rossi. At a hearing earlier in the week he said he was unconscious while in a coma for 18 days prior to his arrest, during which he was tattooed.
He told the court: “Throughout the 18 days I was comatosed, I did not have free will over my body. I have never had tattoos prior to being in hospital.”
Advocate depute Paul Harvey asked the man to clarify if the tattoos appeared on his body while he was in a coma, to which he replied: “Yes” and that he “raised it with the hospital administration”.
Earlier evidence was heard from charge nurse Ruth Keating, 58, who cared for the man whom she knew as Arthur Knight while he was in hospital. She told the court of his “distinctive” tattoos on both arm.
What will happen now?
Rossi was granted bail at the time of his arrest on the understanding he required more treatment. But he was then rearrested on January 20 at his address in Glasgow for failing to attend an extradition hearing that day.
Procurator fiscal Jennifer Johnston insisted Rossi posed “a significant flight risk” at the time, and told the courts he had made several attempts to leave the hospital with oxygen canisters in December, including hiring a private ambulance and offering to pay £100 to a taxi to take him home.
A full hearing on Rossi’s extradition to the US will now go ahead in Scotland in March, the court heard on Friday. Mungo Bovey KC, defending, requested bail for his client on the grounds he remains accused, and not convicted. But Sheriff McFadyen rejected the plea.