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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Family campaigns to free Shields
Michael Shields
Michael Shields' family claim he is a scapegoat
The family of a teenage Liverpool football fan jailed for 15 years for attempted murder has vowed to continue the fight to free him.

Michael Shields, 18, from Wavertree, Liverpool, was jailed for attacking a barman in Bulgaria with a paving stone.

However, a solicitor said Graham Sankey, 20, from Anfield, Liverpool, admitted carrying out the attack.

The Bulgarian court did not accept the confession as evidence because the statement was unsigned.

Barman Martin Georgiev, 25, suffered a fractured skull and may have brain damage, the Bulgarian court was told.

We will keep putting the pressure on Graham Sankey and his legal advisers to do the right thing
Maria Shields

Shields' mother Maria said they would continue putting pressure on the UK Government and Mr Sankey who, along with his family, has been forced to leave his home because of threats made, his solicitor said.

"We are going for a double-pronged approach," she said.

"Firstly, we are planning to travel to London and march on parliament or Downing Street, or even the Bulgarian embassy.

"Secondly, we will keep putting the pressure on Graham Sankey and his legal advisers to do the right thing, and make a proper confession.

Campaign banner at Shields family home
The Shields family said they would use a twin strategy

"We will keep asking him to search his conscience and see that an innocent lad is in jail for something that he didn't do."

Mrs Shields said the family were overwhelmed by messages of support and help to pay the 70,000 fine also imposed by the court.

"Everyone can see there has been a miscarriage of justice," she said.

"We have had support not just from Liverpool but from across Britain and all over the world."

Former Liverpool player John Aldridge has offered to raise funds by organising a football match between ex-professionals.

Graham firmly believed that by coming forward the case (against Shields) would be thrown out or adjourned
David Kirwan, Graham Sankey's solicitor

The court in Bulgaria was told Mr Georgiev suffered a savage attack when he asked a group of Liverpool supporters to quieten down at a fast food restaurant in the Black Sea resort of Varna.

He was kicked to the ground and one fan dropped a paving slab on his head - witnesses including a waitress picked out Shields.

But his defence team said he was made to wear a white T-shirt similar to the attacker's at an identification parade even though he did not own one.

They also claimed he was in bed at the time of the assault and the stone used in the attack was not even examined for fingerprints, DNA or other traces that it had come into contact with Shields.

Solicitor David Kirwan said Mr Sankey felt "kicked in the teeth" by the Bulgarian justice system.

'Through hell'

"Graham firmly believed that by coming forward the case would be thrown out or adjourned.

"In coming forward, he and his family have been through hell."

On Tuesday night, Liverpool football star Jamie Carragher dedicated a goal to Shields.

The defender, who scored his first goal in six years last night against Lithuanian side Kaunas, said he and captain Steven Gerrard were "heartbroken" for Shields.

"He's one of us - a young lad who went to a game to watch Liverpool and ended up being thrown in prison in a foreign country," said Carragher.

"Me and Stevie are heartbroken for the lad because it's obviously an injustice."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Listen to the interview with Michael Shields' family



SEE ALSO:
Liverpool fan jailed in Bulgaria
26 Jul 05 |  Merseyside
Bulgaria bar attack case resumes
25 Jul 05 |  Merseyside
Man 'admits Bulgarian bar attack'
23 Jul 05 |  Merseyside
Reds fan 'hit barman with brick'
21 Jul 05 |  Merseyside
Fans in Bulgaria jail not charged
28 Jun 05 |  Merseyside
Football fans charged in Bulgaria
27 Jun 05 |  Merseyside
Liverpool fans' release bids fail
07 Jun 05 |  Merseyside


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