A court has ruled for the first time that a man arrested on a COVID ward in Scotland is an American rape suspect who faked his own death.
The court sheriff has decided that the man calling himself Arthur Knight is in fact Nicholas Rossi.
Fugitive Rossi is wanted in connection with sex attacks on three different women in Utah, and is also alleged to have committed a number of other crimes across the US.
Authorities say he fled the US to avoid prosecution and attempted to trick investigators into believing he was dead, even attempting to hold a fake memorial mass to commemorate his passing.
But he was tracked via an Interpol arrest warrant to a hospital in Glasgow where he was undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in December 2021.
Since his arrest he has insisted he is a victim of mistaken identity – that his name is Arthur Knight, and that he is an Irish orphan who has never visited the US.
Fingerprints and tattoos
But today officials at Edinburgh Sheriff Court ruled this story was false and that he was indeed the man wanted by US authorities.
Three days of evidence were heard this week as lawyers tried to get to the truth of the man’s identity.
Advocate Depute Paul Harvey called 10 witnesses including hospital staff, police officers and fingerprint experts who were all adamant the man they had encountered in Glasgow was the man identified by the Americans as Rossi.
Two fingerprint experts from Police Scotland identified unique characteristics of prints from “Arthur Knight” which they said were “identical” matches for prints taken from Rossi.
A nurse, from Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, described “distinctive” tattoos on her patient’s biceps, which were the same as images released by Interpol as part of the manhunt.
Bizarre claims ‘entirely fanciful’
During the course of his defence, the wanted man made a series of bizarre claims to explain away the biometric evidence put before the court.
He told the sheriff that he did not have any tattoos before his admission to hospital and that he “awoke” from a coma to find his body had been tattooed while he was unconscious.
In another strange twist, he alleged the fingerprints on the Interpol warrant only matched his own because they were taken by an NHS employee in Glasgow. He claimed a man known only as “Patrick” took the prints while he was sedated and then sent them to a corrupt official in Utah who in turn circulated them to Interpol.
His series of bizarre stories, excuses and stalling tactics were branded “entirely fanciful” and “outlandish” by the prosecutor, who suggested there was no doubt the man in court was Rossi himself.
At one point in the proceedings Rossi appeared to cry and wheeze, describing his experience of Scottish prison as “challenging and dystopian”.
He mouthed “I love you” at his wife Miranda, who has stood by him and maintains that her husband Arthur is a victim of mistaken identity.
US extradition bid
This case, which has been plagued with delays, is one of the most bizarre to be heard in a Scottish court.
Today’s ruling by Sheriff Norman McFadyen brings to an end the relentless fight over the identity, removes any suggestion of the existence of alias “Arthur Knight” and paves the way for full extradition proceedings which are likely to get under way next year.
American officials want him extradited to stand trial.