Who is Nicholas Rossi and where is 'Arthur Knight' now? The story behind Imposter: The Man Who Came Back from the Dead

Nicholas Rossi -Credit:Ewan Bootman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Nicholas Rossi -Credit:Ewan Bootman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The first of a four-part crime story based on a real event is airing on Channel 4 tonight (Monday, May 20). The series gives a fascinating account of a man who awoke from a Covid coma to discover that the police had identified him as a US fugitive.

But what is the truth? True Crime on Channel 4 invites viewers into the entangled world of Nicholas Rossi, also known as Arthur Knight. The one-off documentary entitled Imposter: The Man Who Came Back from the Dead, explores: "Who is Arthur Knight, a bookish nice guy just woke up from a coma? Or Nicholas Rossi in disguise - one of America's most wanted?"

Nicholas Rossi is alleged to have faked his own death and pretended to be an Irish orphan called Arthur Knight in an effort to avoid extradition to the US over a rape charge in 2008. But he came to the attention of the authorities after he became ill with Covid and was taken to a Glasgow hospital in December 2021.

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It was then that he was arrested in connection with an allegation of rape in Utah in 2008. In his court appearances in 2022 in Scotland, he maintained he was Arthur Knight and that he was a victim of mistaken identity.

But at Glasgow Sheriff Court in July 2022, prosecutor Julie Clark told the court “fingerprints taken when he was arrested for this matter were confirmed to be Nicholas Rossi”. In November 2022, Sheriff Norman McFadyen of Edinburgh Sheriff Court ruled that he was Nicholas Rossi and not Arthur Knight and extradition proceedings could begin.

In August 2023, Sheriff McFadyen concluded there was no legal barrier to extradition. Scotland’s Supreme Court, the High Court of Justiciary ruled Rossi should be extradited.

“I conclude that he is as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative,” McFadyen said. “These unfortunate facets of his character have undoubtedly complicated and extended what is ultimately a straightforward case.” Rossi was extradited back to the state of Utah in America where he is now facing an allegation of rape. He is currently in Utah County Jail

Nicholas Rossi faked his own death and fled to Glasgow
Nicholas Rossi is alleged to have faked his own death and fled to Glasgow -Credit:PA

The Associated Press reported that Rossi grew up in foster homes in Rhode Island and had returned to the state before allegedly faking his death and fleeing the country. An obituary published online claimed Rossi died on February 29, 2020 of late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Scottish ministers signed an extradition order last September and Rossi’s appeal against extradition was dismissed in December, paving the way for him to be removed from Scotland.

The documentary features interviews with Rossi’s wife, Miranda Knight, who stood by him throughout the extradition case and ex wife Kathryn Heckendorn in Ohio. Mary Grebinski, who he was convicted of sexually assaulting in Ohio in 2008, also gives an interview.

The director behind the documentary, Owen Phillips, has also worked on the BBC’s Panorama investigation into Jimmy Saville. Owen visited Rossi in jail as he fought extradition and said Rossi was a controlling, menacing man, as reported by the Sunday Mail. Ahead of the release of his documentary on Channel 4, he said: “This is without doubt the most bizarre story I’ve ever worked on.

“I did Savile for Panorama and there was a feeling that it was the tip of the iceberg. If you look at Rossi’s behaviour, if you look at the pattern, if you look at the police reports, then you do kind of think that this is probably the tip of the iceberg with Rossi and there are probably many many more victims out there who he has financially and sexually exploited.

“In the same way as Savile when more victims came forward, it’s the same with this. It’s a distinct pattern that goes back decades.”