Bulgaria murder: ‘I’m not scared: I did my duty’
The Daily Telegraph
January 7, 2008
JOCK Palfreeman is sitting in a small cell in a police station in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia calmly reading magazines brought to him by a friend. The 21-year-old Sydney man allegedly stabbed a university student to death with a knife and critically wounded a second teenager in what police say was an unprovoked frenzied attack on a public street. But as his lawyer Stanko Barbavski and a translator tell him he could face the rest of his life in jail, Palfreeman sits back, smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “I am not scared, I did my duty as a Good Samaritan and as a soldier,” he says.
He knows he is probably going to be in prison for a long time – it will be six months at least before his trial begins – and he asks his friend Graham for novels as well as more magazines to read. He then concedes: “I just want to be free and live a normal life. I want to go home.”
About a week earlier the former St Ignatius’ Riverview college student came to Bulgaria to help expat Briton Graham renovate a cheap house he bought in Madjarovo, about 60km outside the capital. Palfreeman had visited the country five or six times before but on December 22 stayed with Graham whom he met through his travels, to celebrate Christmas and help fix up his home and ride motorcycles through the snow-laden mountainside.
One night last weekend, the pair met up with a British girlfriend of Graham’s – Susan – and the trio went bar hopping in Sofia. The mood was high and Palfreeman was happy to be on leave from the British Army 1st Battalion Infantry Training Centre at Catterick in northern England. He joined the armed forces a month earlier and was a trainee private, eking out an existence on just $90 a day – a considerably small sum in British terms, less than half the average daily wage.
The group was drinking at Happy Bar and Grill, a western-themed restaurant chain. “Happy is a really happy place,” its logo declares but it was anything but for one group of patrons last weekend.
There are two versions of events of what happened sometime after 1pm and they could not be further apart.
Palfreeman, who had had about six beers and a tequila shot, said as he and Susan were leaving they noticed an old gypsy being beaten and kicked on the ground on the usually busy Stambolijski Boulevard intersection by between eight and 10 men. He said he called out, “Leave him alone, stop kicking him” in English and rushed to the man but was set upon as calls of “stop the fascist” were being screamed. At some point Andrei Monov, the 20-year-old university student son of a well-known local doctor, was stabbed once in the heart and died almost instantly, while his friend Antoan Zahariev, 19, was stabbed a number of times and was hospitalised. Two security guards rushed to break up the group and saw the two men bleeding on the ground and immediately handcuffed Palfreeman. He allegedly claimed he was acting in self defence.
Police claim he repeated the defence alibi twice back at a nearby police station. “I am a (Good) Samaritan and I was defending an attacked man and myself,” he allegedly told them before admitting he carried a knife because he had been attacked four times before while visiting the country.
The group of Bulgarian but English-speaking university students, however, said there was no gypsy and they were walking across the road when a random aggressive man began verbally abusing them in English before producing a butterfly knife. Graham had left Palfreeman before the incident and has since told police he did not know the Aussie that well. [Graham contradicts this assertion.] Despite the claim, he went to the police station to get the Sydney man some clothes as, despite sub-zero temperatures outside, he was sitting in the cell in just a T-shirt.
Susan flew out of the country back to England the day after Palfreeman was arrested and has yet to be tracked by police.
Staff at Happy had noticed Palfreeman earlier in the night allegedly being abusive to patrons and provoking a fight. When they were interviewed by police and asked why they did not throw him out, they said they believed it was just another drunk Englishman making the most of the cheap alcohol.
There are numerous western themed-bars across the capital which are notorious hangouts for English tourists in Bulgaria after cheap booze and cheaper sex.
Palfreeman faces charges of murder with “hooligan intent” and attempted murder.
He will apply for bail tomorrow.