Отклонения, лирически и прозаически
Aussie Go Hero or Thug?

January 2008

‘Cheap’ has become the byword for Bulgaria. Drinks are cheap, hotels and properties are cheap. It would seem that the judicial system is not highly valued by tourists either. The perfect holiday destination, but for who?

There is a particular type of person who uses Bulgaria as a mixture between a whore house, with sex tourism a huge problem in the summer at the coast, and a place to get very pissed, very cheaply. Although this sounds crude it is the reality we are forced to face.

The issue of stricter border control on tourists and immigrants has often been brought up – the police themselves complain about the lack of cross-border coordination with other European countries. In some cases this would have stopped some very ugly incidents, but especially now that Bulgaria is in the E.U., the authorities will have to look at new measures to control visitors to the country. In fact the general inflation of prices that has been seen in the last few months may start to do the job for them.

In the course of the last few years, we have been served with plenty of evidence of the recklessness of visiting drunken tourists – maybe most famously the Michael Shield’s case. It was only a matter of time before another terrible incident occurred, and this eventually happened on the 28th of December 2008: when a 21-year-old Australian stabbed a 20-year-old Bulgarian to death and wounded his friend. Why?

Well this case is not quite as clear cut as many of the others yet, but it is alleged that alcohol was again one of the main factors.

Experts investigating the murder and attempted murder said that the knife penetrated the victim's back straight through to the heart – a professional stab. Perhaps also influenced by the opinion entertained by some that authorities in the country are either corrupt or incapable of doing their job, Paul “Jock” Palfreeman had thought carrying a knife for personal protection was a must – in his own words, the Australian had already been attacked “several times”.

Mr Palfreeman, an Australian and a trainee soldier in the British army (who have refused to help in this private case), attacked Andrey Monov and his friend Antoan Zahariev (19) at a crossing near the Sheraton hotel in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. On the night of December 28, “Jock” was out on a party tour of Sofia and had already had “five or six beers and a tequila” as he stated in the court room. There he saw, in his words, “a gang of football hooligans who had set upon a man.” As he was, in his words, “A Good Samaritan”, he rushed to the rescue. The alleged ‘man’ the gang was assaulting (at whom they were shouting ‘fascist!’) was never found by the police who arrived almost immediately.

The “Good Samaritan” then stuck a knife into the back of Andrey Monov. He died 15 minutes later, on the way to the hospital. Palfreeman, who had been visiting a British friend in the Samokov area, said he had been defending himself, as the gang had turned on him after he tried to protect the gypsy. None of the fourteen witnesses confirmed Palfreeman’s statement. Instead, they reported, the drunken Australian had suddenly thrown himself at Andrey and Antoan, who were trying to catch up with their friends who had already crossed the street.

In the January 8th court hearing, Bulgarian magistrates decided that Palfreeman should be permanently detained as there was strong suspicion he might attempt to hide himself. The Australian's contempt for the court was demonstrated on a number of occasions, he believes this is a “kangaroo court” (as quoted in several Australian publications). The British army refused to help in this private case and preferred to leave the matter in the hands of Bulgarian justice.

There are many questions about this case that have still to be answered. Andrey’s father, a prominent psychologist was not informed about the death of his son until 12 hours after the incident for an unknown reason. Meanwhile, it was leaked to the press that Mr Palfreeman had previously been charged for attempted murder back home in Australia, which may well cause problems for the validity of the court-case as previous convictions should not be disclosed to the jury. In the most recent developments, it has become clear that CCTV footage from what appears to be probably the most covered area in Bulgaria is still being processed by the investigators.

As yet this case has not been fully resolved but it does remind us of the hazards of alcohol and the dangers of behaving in a more ‘relaxed’ way in a foreign environment. Mr Palfreeman’s case has received attention from the world’s press and will continue to draw a mixed reaction both here and abroad. Let us not fool ourselves as we sit by our comfortable firesides sipping our cocoa, tut, tut, tutting. Drink fuelled violence is seen as a natural ‘rite of passage’ for many young men and indeed some women, since time immemorial. Enter any English city centre on a Saturday night, if you dare. But no country needs the reputation of exporting such behaviour. Neither should any country have its dirty washing hung out to dry, in an open court.