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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The motive, according to the prosecution, was "hooliganism"
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 28, 2007
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1986
Victim profile: Andrei Monov, 20
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Status: Sentenced to 20 years in prison on December 2, 2009
photo gallery
Jock's police statement Jock's court transcript
Verdict Court Cassation July 2011

Jock Palfreeman is an Australian convicted of murder in Bulgaria.

In December 2007 Palfreeman was involved in an incident during which Bulgarian student Andrei Monov was fatally stabbed. Palfreeman is alleged to have attacked two male Bulgarian students and stabbed them, killing Monov instantly. The other stabbed young man, Antoan Zahariev, was saved in hospital.

In his defence, Palfreeman claims that he went to protect two Roma men from a group of thugs, and after the mob turned on him, he drew a knife for protection. His plea of not guilty based on self-defence was defeated partially due to Monov having been stabbed in the back. However, the location of the wound is disputed by Jock's father, Dr. Simon Palfreeman. In his summary of the case, Dr. Palfreeman stated "the wound is high and towards the back of the armpit" as opposed to what he claims is the popularised version perpetrated by the Bulgarian media.

It has been alleged that Palfreeman has a previous history of violent behavior and that he had stabbed another two young people in Australia in 2004. However, despite an investigation at the time, no charges were laid against Palfreeman in relation to that incident with Australian police citing a lack of evidence. Palfreeman has maintained that he was not responsible for the people being stabbed.

There is a campaign in Palfreeman's defence, claiming that he did not receive a fair trial, with potential evidence such as CCTV footage not being used. Friends and family of Jock have been passionately supporting his case since the initial incident and organised a rally ahead of his appeal.

On 20 January 2011 a Bulgarian appellate court reserved a decision on an appeal against Palfreeman's conviction. In the appeal, Palfreeman's lawyers raised issues such as the failure of the trial court to take into account the evidence of witnesses who were not associated with Monov and its failure to admit the CCTV footage shot on the night of the stabbing.

On 27 July 2011, the Bulgarian Supreme Court rejected Palfreeman's appeal and confirmed the 20-year sentence for the murder of Andrei Monov. Palfreeman's family had earlier said they would be prepared to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if their final appeal in the Bulgarian courts was unsuccessful.


Kangaroo court? The Palfreeman appeal

By Gabriel Hershman -

October 29, 2010

An Australian stabber with psychopathic tendencies currently resides in Sofia Central Jail. That, at least, is what the prosecution in the case of Jock Palfreeman would have you believe.

According to their version, Palfreeman, who was 21 at the time, unleashed a terrifying and totally unprovoked knife attack on a group of Bulgarian youths as they were returning from a night out in Sofia city centre on the night of December 28 2007.

The prosecution claims that Palfreeman first attacked Antoan Zahariev, wounding him in the chest, before stabbing and killing Andrei Monov, the son of prominent Bulgarian psychologist Hristo Monov, also the former deputy head of the child protection agency.

The motive, according to the prosecution, was "hooliganism", a word that in this context seems to be a euphemism for what they perceive to be the behaviour of a dangerous army-trained professional killer. Or, in the words of the judge, as written in his  reasoning for the verdict, a man eager to "impose his concepts of justice" on a group of people that Palfreeman (erroneously in the prosecutor's view) believed to be "fascist", based solely on their boisterous chanting of football songs.

On that December night, Palfreeman had been out drinking with friends in central Sofia. It was about 1.15am when Palfreeman and a couple of friends, including one young Bulgarian man he had just met in a bar, encountered a large group of Levski fans running up from Maria Luisa Boulevard towards Vitosha Boulevard. The prosecution maintains that Palfreeman simply unleashed his attack based on his own warped misreading of the group in question. Some people, however, would query whether that "motive" is really an adequate explanation for what followed.

Palfreeman was jailed in December 2007 immediately after the incident. He was refused bail and spent two years in prison awaiting trial. On December 2 2009 he was convicted of the murder of Monov and the wounding of Zahariev. He was also ordered to pay 200 000 leva to each of Andrei Monov's parents and another 50 000 leva to Zahariev.

Shattered lives

Palfreeman has "resided" in Sofia Central Prison throughout, sharing a cell with other (non-Bulgarian) inmates, where he spends 23 hours a day. He cannot use the internet or make phone calls. His only communication with his parents in Australia is by letter. Every second and fourth Wednesday in the month he is able to receive visitors, including many Bulgarian friends. According to an Australian journalist, Palfreeman is sustained by these meetings. The young prisoner apparently prefers to keep the mood light, enjoying stories of the outside world. And, according to visitors, despite his anger at what he perceives to be a miscarriage of justice, Palfreeman still retains a deep affection for Bulgaria.

Andrei Monov, meanwhile, has a website dedicated to his memory. His funeral was attended by many prominent figures in the Bulgarian judicial system, including judges, lawyers and police. On the anniversary of his death, Hristo Monov held a commemorative vigil for his son in which he reminded the large crowd of the "evil" that had snatched his son that night. Photographs of Monov on his website show him to be a smartly dressed young man with a ready smile, a law student who aimed to follow his mother into the profession. Hristo Monov, however, has consistently refused to be interviewed by Australian media, apparently refusing to "speak to a country that produced such a monster" (as Palfreeman). In December 2009, he told The Sofia Echo that he would agree to speak to us only after all the court instances had confirmed Palfreeman's sentence.

The most visible family member during Palfreeman's incarceration has been his father Dr Simon Palfreeman, a Sydney-based pathologist who has now visited his son 25 times in the past three years. Dr Palfreeman has taken pains not to criticise Bulgaria, although the country's judicial process has shaken his faith in the system. Naturally, his son's version of what happened that winter night nearly three years ago is totally different from the prosecution's. Jock Palfreeman says that he witnessed an attack on a couple of young Roma boys. Palfreeman intervened, running over to help an injured boy on the pavement. He claims he was tending to the person on the ground when the group turned on him and began throwing concrete slabs.

The defence maintains that it was then – and only then – that Palfreeman took out a knife he had been carrying in an attempt to scare off the group who were encircling him. Palfreeman has no recollection of using the knife, but neither has he ever denied doing so. He also concedes that it was he who first approached the group of Bulgarian youths. It is what preceded the event that divides the two sides. Palfreeman maintains that he acted in self-defence after coming to the aid of the Roma boy. The Bulgarian group counters that they were defending themselves against Palfreeman's unprovoked attack.

Two eyewitnesses apparently saw an incident resembling the one at Serdika metro station as described by Jock Palfreeman. These witnesses were two guards in the car park in front of the Sheraton Hotel, about 50m from Serdika station. They testified that they saw a man being beaten. They say that they then saw another man run over and intervene. Dr Palfreeman says that the guards’ version is consistent with his son’s account.

"One of the guards says the attack on the man on the ground continued for about 30 to 40 seconds," Dr Palfreeman told The Sofia Echo in December 2009, immediately after his son's conviction. "The evidence is absolutely insurmountable that the violence was started by the group and perpetuated by the group. Jock’s intervention could have saved his (the man presumed to be a Roma) life or certainly saved him from a lot worse damage," he told us.

Sofia's appeal court has now decided to re-examine five witnesses. "These are witnesses identified by the defence as having significantly changed their stories between their police statements and evidence given in court," Dr Palfreeman told us earlier this month. "Reading of these statements was blocked by the civil claimants in the original trial but due to a change in the law this is now not possible. One of these witnesses will be one of the civil claimants himself."

However, a defence request to re-examine CCTV footage and forensic evidence was turned down.

A question of character

Palfreeman has drawn more support in the Australian press than in Bulgarian media, but his case is perhaps hampered by the great distance, the lack of Australian journalists on the ground in Sofia, and the fact that the Australian government has decided not to intervene until all legal processes have been exhausted. An Australian ABC documentary, One Night in Sofia, which was broadcast in 2009 before the verdict, drew many letters of support for Palfreeman but presenter Belinda Hawkins believes that the slight "Anglicisation" of Palfreeman's manner – having spent some time in the UK serving in the British army – might have created the perception that Palfreeman was something of an outsider, even in his own country.

As noted, the prosecution cites "hooliganism" as the motive for Palfreeman's attack. But experts commissioned by the court, who conducted psychometric and psychological tests, concluded that Palfreeman was not an inherently violent person, neither did he have an aggressive demeanour in his dealings with others. One Night in Sofia also showed that Palfreeman had made many friends in Samokov where he had lived for several months in 2006. One Bulgarian woman describes him in glowing terms and sheds tears when she looks at his photograph. Court experts also described Palfreeman as socially conscious – an anti-Iraq war activist – with a keen awareness of the plight of minorities.

To the prosecution, however, Palfreeman acted like a vigilante without a cause, attacking a group of people for no good reason. This depiction of Palfreeman as a marauding thug would seem incompatible with glowing character recommendations and expert appraisals. Attacking a group of strangers is, according to Dr Palfreeman, simply not in his son's nature.

The defence also has many complaints about the original trial, questions of procedure and interpretation. Certain facts were established, however, beyond all doubt. Andrei Monov had been drinking heavily on the night – his blood alcohol content was 0.29 per cent and Antoan Zahariev's was 0.19 per cent, as opposed to Palfreeman's 0.1 per cent. Such a level of intoxication must have inevitably affected their actions that night. Then there was the mysteriously "lost" CCTV footage on the Ministry of Health's camera, the failure to cordon off the crime scene and also track down the Roma boys that the defence claim were the trigger for Palfreeman's intervention. Also at stake is the court pathologist's interpretation of the force and intent of the knife wound on Zahariev and Monov.

"A key plank of the prosecution case was that the chief pathologist characterised the knife wound as ‘forceful’, equating that with purposeful intent. When we cross-examined him we said that every textbook of forensic pathology says that a pathologist cannot be dogmatic about the force, direction or characteristic of knife wounds," Dr Palfreeman said.

These aspects of the case will not be re-examined. But the fact that pre-trial statements given by the group, which, according to the defence, conflicted with their court statements, will now be considered could provide some basis for challenging the original verdict.

Monovs want life without parole

Andrei Monov's parents, understandably grieving the loss of their son, have their own agenda. They demand that Palfreeman serve life without the possibility of parole. They believe that the original sentence was too lenient. In particular, the prosecution points to Palfreeman's decision to carry a knife as proof of his decision to engage in violence. Palfreeman's defence, on the other hand, as cited on the documentary, is that he has always had a "bad feeling" about Sofia. In particular, he explains his readiness to carry a knife by citing a murky and dangerous youth sub-culture in Sofia, as well as incidents of anti-Roma violence he has encountered elsewhere in Bulgaria.

Dr Palfreeman says his son's case has many unanswered questions and believes that there is a gaping inconsistency behind the judge's reasoning for his son's conviction. In particular, he notes that the judge acknowledged the validity of witness testimony that seemed to support Jock Palfreeman's version of events but ultimately chose only to accept the testimony of the Bulgarian football supporters as being trustworthy. 

Nobody knows what the result of the appeal will be, but followers of the Michael Shields case should not expect an eventual repeat of the precedent of Shields being transferred over to his country of domicile. There is no official prospect of Palfreeman being sent back to Australia to serve the remainder of his sentence because Bulgaria and Australia do not have a bilateral agreement on prisoner transfers.

The next hearing of the appeal court is scheduled for November 11. Two days later, Palfreeman will turn 24 years of age. No doubt his family and supporters – who have held rallies and protest vigils in Australia – will be hoping that Palfreeman will not have to "celebrate" many more birthdays inside jail. Andrei Monov's parents, on the other hand, will be pressing for the maximum punishment possible. Tragically, their own son, who would have been 23 this year, is not here to tell his side of the story. The spot where he collapsed and died on Stamboliiski Boulevard is still commemorated with flowers. Unlike Hristo Monov, Dr Palfreeman still has a son to visit, albeit in a country on the other side of the world with what he regards as a deeply flawed judicial system. Ironically, however, Jock Palfreeman's fate still lies – very much – in the hands of this very system



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