Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Shields 'asleep at time of attack'

Michael Shields
Shields was 18 years old at the time of the attack
Michael Shields has always protested his innocence.

He said he had been in bed by the time Bulgarian barman Martin Georgiev was hit over the head with a rock, nearly killing him.

Liverpool fan Shields had been out celebrating his club winning on penalties in the 2005 final of the Champions League in Istanbul and had had a lot to drink.

Now BBC Inside Out has spoken to a fellow Liverpool fan who has said 22-year-old Shields could not be responsible for the attempted murder.

'Too drunk'

Many Liverpool fans travelling to Turkey for the final in May 2005 used Bulgaria as a stop-off point, choosing to fly there and travel on to Istanbul because it worked out cheaper than direct flights to the venue of the match.

But plenty got no further than the Bulgarian resort of Varna and Shields, then 18, was among a substantial crowd of Liverpool fans who gathered together there to watch the final.

Most people would know, when you are absolutely drunk, once you're asleep, you're asleep
Geoff Hughes

Among them was Geoff Hughes, who met Shields in Varna and said he put him to bed that night.

"There was a load of other fans still there having a drink in the hotel and Michael decided he was too drunk and wanted to go to bed," said Mr Hughes.

"So I walked up to his room with him and he went to bed.

"Most people would know, when you are absolutely drunk, once you're asleep, you're asleep.

"There is nothing getting you up and even if you were to be able to get up, you wouldn't be in a state to cause that much damage to anyone."

Another witness, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Inside Out he was working in the hotel on the evening of the attack.

Liverpool FC celebrating
The fans had been out celebrating Liverpool's win on penalties

He recalled seeing Shields coming back to the hotel before many other fans that night.

However, Mr Georgiev said he definitely saw Shields that night and was adamant he was the one that hit him with the slab.

The barman's injuries were so bad that at one point doctors feared he would die.

He suffered a crushed skull and a brain haemorrhage in the attack.

Shields was sentenced to 15 years in prison following his Bulgarian trial.

His jail term was reduced to 10 years on appeal and Shields was transferred to the UK in 2006 to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Speaking exclusively to Inside Out Mr Georgiev described how he was "absolutely certain" Shields had been his attacker.

Most of the people who were in that hotel know what happened, so it's not just me saying it
Michael Shields

"He was like two metres away from me so I saw his face, I saw his T-shirt, his face," Mr Georgiev said.

"I know very well who hit me and who threw the stone."

Inside Out went behind bars to speak to Shields before he heard the latest High Court ruling.

Shields said that following his arrest he was told by the Bulgarian police to wear a white T-shirt, similar to the one the attacker had been identified as wearing.

He was then taken to appear in an identity parade with three other people.

"I was big and blond-haired and white - they were skinny and brown-haired," he said.

"As soon as I walked in I just knew.

"I had nothing to do with what happened that night.

"I mean, anyone who was there knows what happened. Most of the people who were in that hotel know what happened, so it's not just me saying it."

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