I went out from Rock bar at Lavele Street with Lindzi and Tony and with other people I don’t know by name. We were looking for Graham because he had left suddenly. After that because we didn’t have enough credit for Tony’s phone to call Graham we were looking for a shop to buy phone credit.
Bild: Jock Palfreeman
I looked in that direction and I saw a group of many people, I can’t say exactly how many. I asked Tony why is everyone running and he told me the people who are shouting are hooligans. I do not quote him exactly but he said these are a group of drunken men and its better we stay away from them, but we couldn’t leave because we had to find Graham. In fact it was Lindzi who wanted to find him.
The same night Graham was telling us about a bar that was close to St Nedalyia Square and we thought he might be around. We weren’t sure about that but we didn’t want to leave. I can’t remember who suggested it, but we decided to hide in Happy garden. We were squatting there in garden between 2 rows of low bushes or some sort of rails, I can’t remember which. We wanted to hide, Tony was squatted next to me and Lindzi was next to him.
At some point the noise stopped. Tony and Lindzi were talking and trying to put the credit in the phone. Then the noise started again. Shouting and screaming could be heard, and I decided by the tone of the chanting that this was swearing. The shouts were violent, ferocious. Then I looked over the bushes and I saw a group of men who had surrounded two men who were lying on the ground and were kicking them violently. This was happening in front of the Ministry of Healthcare, the place where I was detained later. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. It took me some time to realize and accept what was happening. I turned to Tony who was charging his phone and asked him are the group attacking someone. I think that Tony said nothing, I’m not sure - he was busy with his phone. During that time Lindzi was busy worrying about Graham and was also looking at Tony’s phone.
When I saw what was happening on the opposite side I ran towards the group of men. I crossed Stamboliyski. Judging that the men were a big group, I went around them (passed them). I wasn’t running directly to them, but crossing Stamboliyski, I passed between them and the cigarette kiosk. I didn’t want to have a clash with this the group at this moment, I didn’t want to attack them. I just wanted to stop them from beating the gypsies. When I came close to the group, I saw that one of the men had squatted and was hitting the man on the ground with his fist – was punching the man in the head. The rest of the men were standing next to him and were kicking the man from time to time. This was happening a few metres from the Ministry of Health in the direction of Metro Station Serdika. I pushed aside the man who was hitting the injured person on the ground. Then I kneeled to the man on the ground to see how he was.
I thought that the gypsy was unconscious. I grabbed him from the shoulders to see whether he was going to react, but there was no reaction on his part. I asked him in Bulgarian "Dobre"… which means "are you alright?" The man was either unconscious, or was so badly beaten that he couldn’t move and didn’t say anything at that point. In the meantime, some of the other men kept on kicking him, kept on kicking him all the time. I looked up to see what the situation with the other men was. Half of group was moving away towards Stamboliyski. The other half kept on kicking the man on the ground. No one hit me at that moment, maybe they thought I am part of their group. Then I stood up and started shouting in Bulgarian to the men "Nazad, Nazad" Then the men around me started retreating towards Stamboliyski about a metre and I was still face to face. I stood up and went to stand between the man on the ground and the men around. I told these men in Bulgarian, Nema attaka, "don’t attack" which is what I meant, don’t attack him.
At that moment that part of group that was moving further away came back. The people who were in front of me started coming towards me so I took the knife from my pocket of my trousers, I took the knife out with my right hand and I opened it. Then I lifted it up on the level of my head and I repeated "Nazad, Nazad" in Bulgarian. I thought that when these men saw the knife they would go away. I just wanted to them to move away from the gypsy. He kept on lying on the ground behind my legs without moving then these men started to come on me although I have the knife. They were saying Pedaraf, which means, a homosexual.
Then one of the men who was diagonally on my left side, 10 o’clock, and was on the lane on Mariya Luiza started shouting, "no, no come, he has a knife". Because more men from the group were coming to me at this moment. That man was taller so he was standing apart from the group. Then the people that were next to me stopped but the other part who were coming from Stamboliyski came closer to me. Then the man on the lane got on the pavement again and started pulling those who were coming to me, by trying to stop them coming close to me. The whole time I kept the knife above my head and brandishing it, not attacking so that everyone could see it. With my left arm I gesticulated in front of the men to show that they have to stay at the side of me, to back off. I haven’t touched them at that moment.
Then those that were close to me turned around and started to retreat towards Stamboliyski. I was walking after the group and kept on shouting "Nazad, Nazad". My goal was to make them go away, but at that moment I thought that if I turn my back to them to help the man, they will attack me so I was walking more slowly than them to make some distance between us. They were walking with quick steps, almost running in front of me. They were looking at me from time to time but kept on going. That way the group was almost at the crossroads when part of them crossed the boulevard, but most of them remained on the pavement at the corner of the crossroads.I was about 10 metres behind them.
I turned my back to them and made maybe about 5 or 10 steps and I turned back and about half a metre behind me I saw one man who had obviously come close to me behind my back. When I turned around he stopped. At this moment I saw his right arm lifted at the height of his shoulder, his fist tight pointed forward. I didn’t see him holding anything in his hand. I thought he was swinging to hit me. So I started brandishing the knife in front of the man in X-movements. At this moment I was trying to block him and protect myself. I didn’t want to hit or injure the man, I just wanted to scare him with the knife. At this moment the man started to retreat back and was still facing me. I stopped brandishing the knife and stayed in one place.
I noticed that the rest of the group are coming to me and are surrounding me from the right and the left. They started throwing at me concrete tiles.
I suppose they had them from the tree that was on the corner.
They hit me 3 times on my left elbow with the tiles. During the last hit, I lost my balance and fell to the ground. All this time I was trying to protect myself with my left arm. I realized that if I don’t stand up I am lost. That’s why I was quick to jump to my feet.
The whole group had moved and surrounded me in a circle and gradually they were tightening the circle around me so I started brandishing the knife in front of me. I didn’t want to stab anyone.
They threw 2 or 3 more tiles at me and then they stopped. Then they started hitting me. They hit me 5-6 times – it was punches, I can’t say exactly how they were hitting me because there were a lot of people and everything happened very fast. I was trying to keep my balance and not fall to the ground. I don’t remember swinging with the knife at this point, because at this point they were beating me. I didn’t see anything in the hands of the men who were around me beside those concrete tiles.
The next thing I can remember is a man in a black fluffy jacket that I suppose was a guard. This man with one or two others was holding a black truncheon in his left arm and they stood before me and the rest. They pushed me to the wall of the ministry and when these men arrived I raised the knife above my head so that they could see I didn’t want to hurt anyone and fell to my knees alone and stretched my arm forward and to place the knife forward in front of me on the ground. Then I placed my hands on the ground too so they can see them. I was saying in Bulgarian, "No problem. Nema Probleme. I had knelt exactly in front of the Ministry of healthcare about a metre in front of its doors.
Then the group started spitting on me and trying to attack me but these men were between them and me and were protecting me. I said in Bulgarian, "I want police officers, I want police." A bit after that I looked at stambolynski I saw the police and I tried to get up but bodyguards tried to grab me. I managed to pull them aside to make way for the police. I kept saying to the security, "No problem, no problem, I’m not a problem". So when police officers came no one was holding me. If I had wanted, I could have run away. I surrendered by my own will. The police came and I stretched forward both arms to show that I allow them to handcuff me. The police officers pushed me towards the ministry of healthcare – there they handcuffed me behind my back. Then they took me to the police car.
Question from Jock's Attorney: What were the issues you discussed in the Bar at Lavele? Did you discuss the relationship between specific youth organizations and their attitude towards the minorities? The accused Palfreeman answers: We talked about life, we discussed also that in Bulgaria hooligans are sometimes also racist and they attack minorities. We were just telling stories. I was telling him how I faced this in Samokov where one beat up a gypsy with his fists. I have been attacked many times. All these attacks against me were with a knife and I was always attacked from the back.
Question from Attorney: Was that the reason for you carrying a knife on the night of 28 December?
Question: Was the knife yours?
Answer: No, Graham bought the knife to use for cooking at Majore. Graham didn’t know that I took the knife and when he found out he got angry with me. When you saw the group of people did someone tell you they were football hooligans? Yes that was Tony and his friends, some friends of his that were with us told us
Question: When the group was initially was retreating and you were going after it, what happened to the gypsy on the ground?
Answer: He was still lying on the ground.
Question: Did you see when and where he went away?
Question: What was your motive for going towards the group initially?
Answer: I wanted to stop them from hitting the gypsy. I did not hear him scream for help at the moment I went to help him. There was a second gypsy with him that the same group were beating, but the second gypsy got up and left at some point. I can’t describe the gypsies’ faces and if I see them I can’t recognize them.
A question from Simon Palfreeman: What was the first time you realized that someone was seriously injured or died?
Answer: It was in the police. I understood that from the police officers. I saw some blood on the knife when I placed it on the ground when the body guards came but I didn’t know where the blood was from and my adrenalin was high, but it could have been my blood too, but I was very worried when I saw it.