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Who is Nicholas Rossi? The mystery behind the fugitive accused of faking his own death

Nicholas Rossi has claimed throughout proceedings to be the victim of mistaken identity  (PA Archive)
Nicholas Rossi has claimed throughout proceedings to be the victim of mistaken identity (PA Archive)

In a bizarre court appearance this week, American fugitive Nicholas Rossi could be seen defending himself on a grainy livestream video against allegations of rape from a Utah courtroom. However, Rossi does not just reject rape charges. He has chosen to reject his entire identity.

The 36-year-old identifies himself in court as Arthur Knight Brown and has called allegations that he wasn’t giving his true name in the hearing as “complete hearsay”.

Rossi is facing rape charges in Orem, Utah from 2008 after being identified as a suspect 10 years later. But before authorities had the chance to catch him, Rossi allegedly faked his death and fled to Britain.

Over in the UK, he re-married and built an entire life around his new alias Arthur Knight.

As his case prepares to go to trial in the US, here’s what we know about Nicholas Rossi:

The man claims to be called Arthur Knight but US authorities say he is Nicholas Rossi (PA)
The man claims to be called Arthur Knight but US authorities say he is Nicholas Rossi (PA)

Nicholas Rossi, whose legal name is Nicholas Alahverdian, has been charged with the rape of a 21-year-old woman in Orem Utah in 2008, prosecutors have said.

He wasn’t identified as a suspect until about a decade later due to a backlog of DNA test kits at Utah State Crime Lab and a sealed arrest warrant was issued in 2020.

Rossi has also been accused of raping another woman in Salt Lake County later the same year and faces multiple complaints against him in his native Rhode Island for alleged domestic violence.

Rossi was born as Nicholas Alahverdian in Rhode Island, in July 1987 to Diana and Jack Alahverdian, according to reports in US newspaper The Providence Journal. He was adopted by his stepfather David Rossi, and changed his surname to Rossi.

He grew up in Rhode Island foster homes and made a name for himself as a vocal critic of the state’s Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Nicholas Rossi was extradited from Scotland earlier this month (PA Archive)
Nicholas Rossi was extradited from Scotland earlier this month (PA Archive)

What did he do in the UK and who is Arthur Knight?

In early 2020, Rossi told media in Rhode Island that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had weeks to live and an obituary published online claimed he had died on February 29, 2020.

According to his former lawyer, Rossi had moved to Ireland in 2019 but the exact location is unclear.

Under the guise of Arthur Brown, Rossi is believed to have met his wife, Miranda Knight, in Bristol in 2019 and married her in early 2020, assuming the name Arthur Knight.

The pair moved up to Glasgow in 2021 where he claimed to be a professor teaching at the University of Glasgow. Neighbours told The Times that he used an English accent and remarked: “For someone who was on the run, he really liked to draw attention to himself.”

Miranda Knight’s brother, Kevin Knight, told the Daily Record in 2022 that she had been distraught when accusations came to light and that she was in denial, believing the police had to wrong man.

He also said that Rossi had always spoken with a thick Irish accent and never spoke about his family.

Prosecutors said he has used at least 10 different aliases over the years.

Under the guise of Arthur Brown, Rossi is believed to have met his wife, Miranda Knight, in Bristol in 2019 and married her in early 2020 (PA)
Under the guise of Arthur Brown, Rossi is believed to have met his wife, Miranda Knight, in Bristol in 2019 and married her in early 2020 (PA)

How was he caught?

Authorities said his run from the law ended when he was arrested in December 2021 after being recognized by someone at a Glasgow, Scotland, hospital while he was being treated for Covid-19.

He insisted he was an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight and had never set foot on American soil.

Rossi had said he was framed by authorities who took his fingerprints while he was in a coma so they could connect him to the crimes.

The fugitive also claimed that the tattoos he had, which matched those of Rossi, were also given to him while unconscious in hospital.

But in November 2022 a sheriff in Edinburgh ruled that he was in fact Nicholas Rossi and lost his final appeal against extradition on 14 December last year.

What’s next?

Rossi appeared in a Utah court on Tuesday for his first hearing since he was extradited from Scotland at the beginning of January.

He identified himself as Arthur Knight Brown and appeared from jail via video wearing an oxygen mask.

He did not enter a plea at the initial court appearance and Deputy Salt Lake County attorney Tamara Basuez said Rossi has not admitted his name or birthdate since he returned to Utah.

“Objection, my lady, that is complete hearsay,” Rossi told the judge in response to this.

Rossi is in custody without the possibility of posting bail in the Orem case and a second hearing has been set for January 26. If found guilty, Rossi could face a prison sentence of five years to life.