Scottish court says man accused of faking death is U.S. rape suspect

LONDON (Reuters) - A Scottish court ruled on Friday that a man arrested on a COVID-19 hospital ward is an American accused of rape who allegedly faked his own death two years ago.

An Edinburgh court ruled that the suspect who has spent the past year claiming to an orphan from Ireland - who has never been to the United States - is Nicholas Rossi, a man U.S. prosecutors say is linked to rape and sexual assault allegations.

The man who says his name was Arthur Knight was first arrested by police in October last year after checking himself in to a hospital in Glasgow with COVID-19.

Medical staff and police concluded he was Rossi after comparing his tattoos with Interpol pictures. A stream of preliminary hearings then took place, during which the man repeatedly fired his legal team.

The court was told at hearings this week to decide his identity that Rossi faces claims that he raped two women and sexually assaulted another in the U.S. state of Utah.

The judge dismissed the man's claims that tattoos had been added to his arms while he was in a coma and that fingerprint records had been manipulated.

Sheriff Norman McFadyen, who presided over the hearings, said the man's claims were "implausible" and "fanciful".

"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," he said.

U.S. prosecutors claim Rossi fled to avoid being charged and had attempted to fake his own death in 2020 an effort to avoid being located.

A full extradition hearing is expected to take place next year.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Jonathan Oatis)