ITV News’ Louise Scott reports on the man who allegedly faked his own death to avoid prosecution charges of rape
Nicholas Rossi is appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court as part of a long-running battle to extradite him to the US over alleged sex offences in the state of the Utah.
He was arrested in Scotland in December 2021, but authorities first had to prove he was the wanted fugitive rather than Arthur Knight.
In November 2022, after a five day hearing the Sheriff determined he is the wanted man, and efforts to extradite him could therefore proceed.
Who is Nicholas Rossi?
Nicholas has gone by many names over his 35 years. He was born Nicholas Alahverdian on July 11 1987, in Rhode Island, in the US.
When he was eight years old, he was adopted by his mum’s new husband, changing his surname to Rossi.
A legitimate change of name, but the start of a life under different aliases.
He had a turbulent childhood and lived with his family until he was a teenager. He was then moved around by the Department for Children, Youth and Families – where he claims he was abused.
This began his involvement in campaigning, fighting for child welfare reform.
In 2008, while living in Ohio, Nicholas Rossi sexually assaulted a young woman called Mary at a college campus after meeting online.
This put Rossi on the US sex offender’s register, his DNA and fingerprints were now stored on a national database.
That conviction ultimately linked Rossi to the two rapes in the state of Utah, but other victims from Rhode Island and Ohio have spoken out about their experiences of the man.
In December 2019, media and friends in Rhode Island began receiving calls from Rossi to say he was dying of cancer.
Some believed him, others thought something was untoward when he refused to meet in person.
The reality: he had already fled the States, presumably aware authorities were after him.
Nicholas Rossi allegedly died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on February 29, 2020. An obituary appeared on his website, seemingly written by himself.
His life in the UK is believed to have begun around 2017, where he adopted the story of being an Irish Orphan who had moved to London and therefore had a mix of accents.
GP records from the UK showed he’d used the name Nicholas Brown, then Nicholas Knight Brown, followed by Arthur Winston Knight Brown, and most recently omitting Brown.
Arthur Knight is who he maintains to be to this day.
When I asked his victim Mary if she recognised the man identifying himself as Arthur Knight, she said: “That’s Nick.”
The change of name was also nothing new to her: “He assaulted me as Nicholas Rossi and then the first time he sued me the name changed – he was on the sex registry as Rossi, so I think that was his way of separating himself from one of the consequences, just changing his name.”
What has he been accused of?
Utah authorities are looking for Rossi in connection with an alleged rape in 2008.
He is also wanted by the FBI under accusations of defrauding his foster parents, by racking up debts of more than $200k (£157k).
During court proceedings in Edinburgh last year to prove his identity, it was announced that Utah prosecutors are pursuing two further allegations of rape and assault in the state.
Meanwhile, Police in Essex have confirmed they want to question Rossi over claims he raped a woman in the UK.
Did Rossi fake his own death?
Nicholas Rossi used his connections in Rhode Island to set up the story for his death. He told politicians, family and news outlets that he was dying of cancer and didn’t have long to live in December 2019.
Some reported the news, others were more sceptical. But no one saw Rossi during this time.
The announcement of his death in February 2020, on a self-titled website, was picked up by publications and announced on local radio stations.
He was remembered as a campaigner for child welfare reform, tributes were led in Rhode Island’s state house.
But a memorial mass being organised in a Rhode Island church was called off by investigators who said they believed he was very much alive.
What led to his arrest in Scotland?
Arthur Knight was admitted to hospital in Glasgow in October 2021 with Covid-19.
He was subsequently admitted to intensive care and put on a ventilator where staff described him as one of the sickest patients on the ward.
It was at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow that Interpol traced their wanted man.
NHS staff told the court Police Scotland officers turned up at the ICU showing photos of suspect Nicholas Rossi. They said they recognised him as their patient Arthur Knight.
They were also able to confirm tattoos, identified on the Interpol red notice, as being visible on his upper arms.
But upon his arrest Rossi claimed it was a case of mistaken identity, speaking in a part Irish and English accent.
Alongside his wife Miranda they went on to do various media interviews claiming his innocence.
In November 2022, during the trial to determine his identity, Arthur Knight told the court his fingerprints had been taken while in a coma to add to the Interpol notice so that they would match.
He also claimed a worker called Patrick had tattooed him while he lay unconscious in the hospital bed so he would resemble Rossi.
Ultimately, the sheriff found Arthur Knight to indeed be wanted fugitive Nicholas Rossi.
What is his alleged version of events?
We have never heard Nicholas Rossi’s version of events, only the story of so-called Arthur Knight.
The persona of Arthur Knight continues to this day, maintaining an Irish English accent.
Under oath he told the court he was born in Dublin before moving to London in 2001 where he subsequently met his wife, Miranda.
They moved to Bristol and then Glasgow due to a job opportunity. Some elements of Arthur Knight’s story are true, he did legally marry Miranda.
But as far as the American fugitive Nicholas Rossi goes, we only know what others have told us.
Rossi has continued to delay proceedings by changing legal representation, raising issues with the conditions of the Edinburgh prison as well as repeated medical issues.
Today the hearing to extradite concludes.
But as Mary, his victim in Ohio, told me: “Nick is going to do everything he can to delay coming back here.”