This is a story about clashes: a clash of cultures, a clash of justice systems, a clash of families; and its genesis was a clash on the streets that has resulted in tragedy for both sides. I’m sure no one knows about this outside of Bulgaria and Australia, and I suspect some will see it as a clash of two countries.
Not surprisingly, I’ve only seen one side of the story, through Australian journalists and an Australian family, though the prosecutor for the Bulgarian side was interviewed and we see footage of the victim’s father voicing his opinion on Bulgarian national television. The victim’s family refused to be interviewed by Australian journalists (from the ABC).
Basically, 24 year old Jock Palfreeman, an Australian who has spent some time in Bulgaria – enough to be familiar with its darker side – became involved in a melee when he went to the aid of a Roma (gypsy) being bashed and became the target of the attack himself. According to his account, he was knocked to the ground when hit on the head from behind, and, when he regained his feet, drew a knife to defend himself. This apparently resulted in the death of 20 year old Andrei Monov, who suffered a single knife wound under his armpit, though Palfreeman claims he has no memory of inflicting the wound, even though he admits he was wielding a knife.
There are statements from witnesses who support Palfreeman’s account of events, quite accurately, yet these statements were not admitted to the court, and Police written statements also conflicted with their in-court evidence. When the defence team requested that the original Police statements be admitted to court, they were overruled by the victim’s family, who were part of the prosecution team. Apparently, this is the norm in Bulgaria. Jock Palfreeman’s father, Dr. Simon Palfreeman, who is a pathologist, had to mount the defence case, though he hired an Australian legal team to help him.
Simon Palfreeman, who is a scientist by discipline, had never had to deal with a legal exercise of this nature before, let alone in a foreign Eastern bloc country. In hindsight, his faith that justice and fair representation would prevail could be seen as naïve. Certainly, his son has a better appreciation of the situation than his father.
In the end, Jock Palfreeman was charged with ‘Murder with hooliganism’ and the sentence handed down was 20 years. They’ve since gone through an appeal process, which is Part 2 of the programme, and the conviction was upheld. The defence team are now talking about going to the European Court of Human Rights where Bulgaria has 200 cases pending, apparently.
What I find remarkable, in Part 2, is that Jock Palfreeman has not only become acceptant of his fate, but has taken on a role of supporting fellow inmates in one the worse prisons in Europe, according to Dr Krassimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Commitee, Human Rights Group.
Part 1 and Part 2 are 30mins each, or you can read the transcripts.
Addendum: It's worth watching/listening to the 5 min interview with Prof. David Barclay, an internationally recognised forensics expert at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland (behind the Part 2 link).