A man facing extradition to the US has claimed he was tattooed while unconscious in hospital, telling a court this was why he had similar tattoos to the man wanted by American authorities.
The 35-year-old man, who claims to be called Arthur Knight, from Ireland, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday to give evidence.
The court is trying to determine whether or not he is, in fact, Nicholas Rossi, a man whom US authorities are seeking in connection with the rape of a 21-year-old in Utah in 2008.
Previous evidence heard the man was arrested at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in October last year where he checked himself in under the name Arthur Knight after contracting Covid.
He was remanded after Police Scotland officers received an Interpol red notice with photos of Rossi’s face and tattoos and, with the help of medical staff, said they were able to identify the patient.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the man 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 arms.
Addressing one particular photo on the Interpol red notice of Rossi, which showed a tattoo of a red cross above an angel wing, Ms Keating said: “That looks like the tattoo I saw on Arthur Knight.”
The two police officers who arrested the man, Pc Shannon McGill and Pc Jamie Crombie, also said they recognised Rossi’s tattoos on the man’s arms in evidence.
Mr Harvey put the witnesses’ statements to the man, asking if they were correct about the tattoos on his body, to which he said yes, but that they were slightly different to Rossi’s tattoos on the Interpol notice.
Addressing the images of the tattoos shown before the court, the man said: “They were put there to make it look like I am this Nicholas Rossi.
“All I can say is that when I awoke from the coma, there were tattoos on my person and they were not identical to what appears on these screens.”
Mr Harvey then asked: “The staff, doctors, nurses in the ICU at QEUH did nothing to prevent someone putting these tattoos on your body while you were in a coma?”
The man said in his “waking moments” he recalled there being “many, many people on the ward” and started to talk about apparent water contamination issues in the building before the sheriff asked him to stop drifting off topic.
Yesterday, Tenprint Identification Officer (TIO) Lisa Davidson told the court that fingerprints taken by police in July from the man in HMP Saughton Prison, are “identical” to Rossi’s fingerprints on the Interpol red notice and the extradition request.
On Tuesday, another TIO, Anita Vezza, analysing the same images, said the fingerprints had “similar characteristics on each that were unique to that person”.
But the man said the fingerprints on the extradition request (those of Rossi) were meddled with, and taken from him by an NHS worker called “Patrick” on behalf of David Leavitt, a Utah County attorney.
Mr Harvey put it to the man: “Your evidence is that the Utah authorities have lied to this court about how they obtained the fingerprints?” To which he replied: “Yes.”
When asked if the headshots of Rossi on the Interpol red notice and extradition request were him, the man said the images has been transposed by David Leavitt.
He told the court there were “elements” of his appearance, but said the eyes were too far apart, the nose too fat and the face too wide for it to be him.
The man’s marriage certificate was then shown to the court, signed Nicholas Brown, which said his father was “unknown”.
But a medical form was then shown, also signed by Nicholas Brown, which said his father had died of a heart attack in his 30s.
The man disputed the latter, saying the writing was not his.
Asked why his accent switched from posh English to other accents during the hearing, the man blamed oxygen deprivation for this.
The man’s wife, Miranda Knight, 41, was also called to give evidence.
She told the court the reason for the man’s name changes was because he suffered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his childhood.
Mrs Knight said: “Nicholas Brown had bad connotations for him.
“We discussed with our vicar what he had been through so we thought adopting his middle name would help take away those connotations… and adopting (the name) Arthur Knight would be good for his health.”
Mungo Bovey KC, defending the man, put it to the witness if there was any indication her husband was Rossi, to which she replied: “No.”
Sheriff Norman McFadyen adjourned the hearing until Wednesday morning.