Monday, October 18, 2010

Rally for Australian man Jock Palfreeman jailed in Bulgaria - Missing footage, Evidence missing

Family and friends of a Sydney man jailed for 20 years for murder in Bulgaria have held a rally in Sydney ahead of his appeal.

Jock Palfreeman was found guilty last December of the murder of 20-year-old Bulgarian man after a fight in Sofia on December 28, 2007.

Sofia City Court sentenced the 23-year-old to 20 years' imprisonment, in what his family and friends say was a gross miscarriage of justice.
"When the judge came out and gave that verdict, I was stunned - it was just a horrible, horrible feeling because I knew that there was no way he could have logically or legitimately come up with that verdict," Jock's father Simon Palfreeman told AAP at a Justice for Jock rally in Sydney on Saturday.

Mr Palfreeman will leave Sydney for Sofia later on Saturday for Jock's appeal, which is due to be heard in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday.

On the night of December 27, 2007, Palfreeman, according to his statement, was out with friends in the capital Sofia when they saw a group of drunken football fans attacking two Roma men outside the entrance of an underground railway station.

He ran across the road to help the two men and stood between them and the gang yelling "Don't attack" in Bulgarian.

One of the Roma men escaped and the gang initially backed away. But the regrouped a couple of minutes later to attack him.
Palfreeman pulled out a knife from his pocket to warn the gang away, but the men surrounded him and threw concrete blocks at him.

CCTV footage shown in court showed the men surrounding him. After almost two minutes, it shows gang member Monov joining the assault and then falling back on the road.
Statements from independent witnesses, the police who were initially on the scene and even gang members supported key parts of Palfreeman's account.

A police officer who was on the scene told the court: "I found out that these 10-15 people, as they were moving, there was an altercation with a group from the minority and the defendant tried to stop them, after that they attacked him, he tried to defend himself and the incident occurred.

Jock Palfreeman - a former student of St Ignatius College, Riverview - pleaded self-defence but this was dismissed by the judges who heard the trial.

CCTV footage from a camera at a Ministry of Health building, which could have showed the attack on the Roma men, disappeared. First, it was deleted by virtue of the tardiness of the prosecution in obtaining the footage.

After a computer expert recovered the deleted file, a supposed electrical fault lost it again. When the defence tried to get access to the hard drive, it disappeared altogether.
A doctor at the health ministry said someone had come to see the footage the morning after the incident. It has not emerged who that was or what they saw on the footage.

Other problems with the trial included police not trying to collect statements from key witnesses, such as Palfreeman's friends who were there on the night or the Roma men; and repeatedly aborted hearings in which witnesses or even the judge failed to show up.

Bulgaria's justice system has a reputation for corruption and Monov, the son of a famous psychologist, comes from a well-connected family. Many police officers, judges and politicians attended his funeral.

However, Mr Palfreeman senior said key evidence was never presented at court, including CCTV footage of the incident which went missing before the trial.

Defence requests to have expert reviews of CCTV footage and forensic evidence, and to receive expert evidence on the significance of Monov's 0.3% blood alcohol level, have been rejected.

"We know that Jock has got such a strong case that it's almost impossible for a court to actually not find that the original trial was flawed," Mr Palfreeman said.

"We're very confident (of a positive outcome)."
Jock is doing "pretty good", he added.

"It's tough, he's been in jail nearly three years and he's had this verdict which is totally flawed and yet he's still got good humour, he's still strong and trying to do things in the prison and I know he's looking forward to the appeal."

The trial has had a huge impact on Jock's family and friends, with Mr Palfreeman and Jock's stepmother Helen travelling to Bulgaria about 20 times in the past three years.

"It just took over our lives for two or three years, it's had a huge impact on work and family, colleagues and friends, and we've pretty much put our entire lives on hold," Mr Palfreeman said.

"We are desperately hoping that the appeal court will be different."

No comments:

Post a Comment