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The man accused of being a death-faking US fugitive

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It is a bizarre case that has been making international headlines. A man was arrested on a Covid ward in a Glasgow hospital and accused by the US authorities of being a fugitive who faked his own death to evade justice.

They say Nicholas Rossi is suspected of a number of sexual assaults and is wanted to face a rape charge in the state of Utah.

But the man at the centre of the extradition process claims it is a mistake and is challenging them to prove his identity.

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When I interviewed him at the BBC’s Pacific Quay in Glasgow, he was in a wheelchair, his voice competing against the hiss of an oxygen mask.

He says he is not Nicholas Rossi – the man the Americans want to extradite on a rape charge in Utah.

In fact, he claims he has never even been to America.

“I’m Arthur Knight and this is my wife Miranda Knight,” he told me.

He claims to have got married in Bristol two years ago and produces a wedding certificate.

But there is no birth certificate in his pile of documents. He claims this is a consequence of being adopted in Ireland before moving to London in his teens.

I tell him that the story he is telling me has been dismissed as a load of rubbish by the US authorities and that they are sure he is Nicholas Rossi.

“Then I would invite them to prove it,” he says.

Image source, YouTube/WPRI

Authorities in the US confirmed that Mr Rossi was also known as Nicholas Alahverdian in the state of Rhode Island where he was involved in local politics and was a critic of the state’s child welfare system.

In December 2019, Mr Rossi told media in his home state that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live. Several news outlets in Rhode Island reported that he had died in February 2020.

On 13 December last year, a man who had been admitted to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital with Covid was arrested under an international arrest warrant on behalf of prosecutors in Utah.

After a court hearing in January he was released on bail.

At a further hearing last month Crown prosecutor Jennifer Johnston said police and hospital staff identified the man as Mr Rossi from tattoos on his body.

“That’s not true,” the man claiming to be Arthur Knight tells me but when I ask to see his left forearm for evidence of tattoos, he refuses.

“Honestly, I’m exhausted”, he says.

“If you really want to you could see me pulling up both sleeves tonight. It’s nothing personal, I’m just exhausted.”

Prosecutors in the US say they are sure the man Scottish police have arrested is Nicholas Rossi.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

Image source, Getty Images

Speaking in January, Utah county attorney David Leavitt said there was a rape charge against Mr Rossi, which dated back to 2008.

Mr Leavitt says: “Once we determined that he was in a Scottish hospital then we were able to confirm through photographic confirmation and DNA that we had our man, so to speak.

“If he denies that he is wanted in Utah then he’ll go through a process where we’ll have to demonstrate and satisfy the Scottish courts that he is that individual and that process could take a number of months.”

In his court appearances, the man in the wheelchair has denied he is Nicholas Rossi.

His QC told one of the extradition hearings that his client’s health had deteriorated significantly since catching Covid.

I put it to him that people have said he does not really need the wheelchair.

“They’re calling it a prop,” he says.

He tries to stand up with the help of his wife who says she has to take his full weight as he can’t do it himself.

He says he can't stand up without the help of his wife Miranda

We showed our interview to Nicholas Rossi’s uncle in Connecticut, who in 2020, tried to arrange a memorial service, after it was reported his nephew had died of cancer.

“It came as a shock when I found out he was still alive. If that’s him,” Michael Alahverdian told us.

“I don’t have the answers, I wish I did.

“I wish I could say that’s definitely Nicholas or that definitely isn’t Nicholas. There’s a slight resemblance but the mannerisms and the weight kind of throw me off a bit.”

According to US TV network NBC10, Rossi’s adoptive father has no doubt it is him.

After viewing an interview with the man who identifies himself as Arthur Knight, David Rossi said: “That’s my son.”

He said he adopted Alahverdian as a child but has not seen him since he divorced from the boy’s mother 20 years ago.

“I just know my son. That’s definitely Nicky. He’s older, but it’s him,” David Rossi told NBC10.

The man claiming to be Arthur Knight describes attempts to extradite him to face a serious allegation as another man’s problems.

I ask him bluntly if he is a rapist?

“No. I’m a lot of things. I have many flaws but to call me a rapist is so out of this world and unexpected that it’s almost comical that someone would call me that,” he says.

The issue of identity will be resolved at a full extradition hearing scheduled for May, answering what is for now the key question in this bizarre case.

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