Police to study case for pardoning football fan

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The Independent Online

The prospect of a pardon for Michael Shields increased last night when the Justice Secretary Jack Straw revealed that he has asked Merseyside Police to examine the case.

Shields, 22, is serving a 10-year-sentence for the attempted murder of a barman attacked in Bulgaria in 2005 after Liverpool FC's Champion's League victory in neighbouring Turkey.

He has always maintained his innocence, saying that he was not even at the Big Ben diner on the night in question. A campaign to have him freed has been backed by MPs, councillors and Liverpool FC players. But Mr Straw has warned that this would not happen until May at the earliest.

In a statement, the Justice Secretary said: "I recently asked Merseyside police for assistance to ensure that in coming to a decision I can be certain all the relevant facts, including new evidence provided on Mr Shields' behalf, have been considered. I have asked the police to present their findings as soon as they are able to do so."

Shields was arrested with three others, Bradley Thompson, Graham Sankey and Anthony Wilson, after the barman, Martin Georgiev was attacked. Thompson and Wilson were convicted of lesser charges and Mr Sankey was not charged. Back in Britain, Mr Sankey, through his solicitor, confessed to the attack, but withdrew this confession when it was ruled that, for the confession to be accepted, he would have to go back to Bulgaria to be tried.

In November 2006 Shields was returned to Britain to complete the remainder of his sentence at Hindley prison in Wigan.