Fan jailed in Bulgaria 'to move to British prison'

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The Independent Online

Football fan Michael Shields, jailed in Bulgaria for a crime he claims he did not commit, is expected to return to the UK today, his MP said.

Shields, 20, is currently serving 10 years in a Bulgarian prison for the attempted murder of a barman during a brawl in the Black Sea resort of Golden Sands last May.

Liverpool Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman said Shields is expected to return this afternoon to serve the remainder of his sentence in a British jail.

Miss Ellman said: "This is a major step forward for Michael and his family. There has been a great deal of cooperation between the Bulgarian and British authorities to make this happen.

"We must continue the campaign for justice and an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights is being filed.

"I will continue to work with Michael's family and legal team."

When Shields returns to the UK he is expected to be held in Wandsworth Prison in London where he will be assessed before the authorities decide where he will serve out the remainder of his sentence.

Shields was holidaying in Bulgaria with friends after watching his beloved Liverpool FC win the Champions League on television in neighbouring Turkey.

He has always insisted that he played no part in the attack and was asleep in his hotel when it took place.

Another Liverpool man, 20-year-old Graham Sankey, made a written confession to the attack after returning to the UK, although his solicitor now claims he was referring to a different brawl.

Shields, from Wavertree in Liverpool, appealed against his conviction to Bulgaria's Supreme Court and his sentence was reduced from 15 to 10 years.

The court also imposed a fine of £71,000 which has since risen to £90,000 with interest.

Shields' family have raised enough money to pay off the entire fine, allowing his return to Britain.

Michael's uncle Joey Shields said: "We have not had official confirmation, but we have been told he may be home today.

"We don't want to get our hopes up but we'd love to have him back for Christmas."

Michael's auntie Lyn Graney said her nephew was expected to arrive at Gatwick Airport at around 8pm this evening.

She said: "The whole family is thrilled to bits, but the fight still has to carry on to have Michael released.

"He maybe coming back to English soil, we have won a battle but we have not won a war."

Michael's father, also called Michael, said he was relieved his son was finally returning home but saddened that he would be placed behind bars.

He said: "We are obviously happy to get him back in this country where he belongs, but I can't say I'm overjoyed at the thought he will go straight to prison.

"He has spent too much time behind bars already and the fight will not stop here, we will continue to campaign to get my son free.

"We have had no contact from Michael since the news came out that he was coming home and to be honest we have no idea where he is at the moment.

"But I know my son and he will be relieved to get out of that country.

"As soon as we get a phone call telling us where he is we will be down to see him as soon as possible.

"This is a big step in the right direction, but it does not end here."

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