I Am Not Nicholas: A True Crime Podcast About Identity and the Rossi/Knight case.

We all have an identity, it is what makes us who we are as individuals. It can be made up of a combination of physical traits, personal traits, style, attitudes, but it can also be found lodged in the small things we do which often go unnoticed by others. It is not fixed and it changes and matures as we ourselves grow. Who we were in one decade is unlikely to be who we are in another, and yet it is in a way teathered to ourselves, because the past of all these parts of us does not change.

However some people are so uncomfotable with who they are that instead of trying to persue personal growth in the present to create a better future, they take what possibly appears to be an easier route by instead erasing their past. It is this which is at the crux of I Am Not Nicholas, a podcast by Audible and Jane McSorely, who was also part of the team who brought us Death at Deepcut.

The subject of the podcast is the heroicly named Arthur Knight, a resident of Glasgow who recovering from covid in hospital was going to be xstradited to the US to answer for the crimes of Nicholas Rossi. Knight and his wife Miranda invited McSorley into their home, where it at first seems like a cut and dried case of mistaken identity when Knight shows her his bare arms, which on Rossi are tatooed. An oxygene mask he uses to breath covers his face, making identification tricky, but the tattoo’s appears like conclusive proof that Knight is someone very ill, who is being sadly hounded by others.

However the story is not as simple as it first appears. McSorely notices small details which don’t add up, especially around Knights romanticised version of his childhood as an orphan on the mean streets of Dublin which sounds like an extract from a Frank McCourt book. McSorely begins to dive deeper into the Knight and Rossi story. In Rossi we find a troubled child with a lack of stability and structure, who has a legal case for abuse in foster homes in the US settled out of court, but also he is a child and young person who appears to make those around him uncomfortable. A kind of indefinable sense, an intuition, that people had which can not be explained with any kind of logic, but did make people back off him.

Perhapse they were right, as it turns out Rossi was a controlling and manipulative domestic abuser and also assaulted women. The controversity and uneasieness surrounding him carries right up until his death, an event you would think would put any questions to bed, but oddly it still carries on. The rquests from his widow whom no one had heard of before, for his requiem mass and obituary are strange, egotisitcal even, not the behaviour of a grieving wife who has two previously unknown children from Rossi to look after during a traumatic time.

Back in Scotland Knight’s behaviour is also becoming more strange, devolving into threatening McSorely, which appears to be part of his MO, when things don’t go his way. There are hearings at the High Court in Edinburgh, and press conferences arranged by Knight in hotels. But those who were interested in the Knight/Rossi story begin to fade away as it becomes more obvious that Knight is indeed Rossi.

McSorely herself also goes on a personal journey, her heart strings having been tugged by the ailing pathetic Knight, she is now embarressed to have fallen for his lies, and leaves no stone unturned in trying to find the truth, including confronting Knight. McSorley however is guilty of nothing more than having sympathy for others, a trait which manipulators and con artists everywhere take advantage of. Just because part of who we are is used against us, does not mean that we should reject that part of ourselves, this is indeed blaming the victime, even though the victim is ourselves. Far better to put the blame on Nicholas Rossi than try to harden parts of ourselves.

What remains unexplained is why Rossi created a new identity for himself, sure there was the need to escape the possible jail time that he faced in the US if extradited, but Rossi was hoodwinking and trying to fool people long before he left America. The sheer energy it must take to keep track of the lies, half truths and falsehoods, what you’ve said to who, to establish a whole new persona must be gargantuan, a full time job in itself. Looking back on what we know about Rossi’s childhood it is possible to see that his ability to slip into a new identity and to twist the truth to his own needs, is possibly because the tumult of his childhood left him with an identity that was so poorly formed and so egregious that slipping out of it must have felt easy, he possibly even recieved a thrill from pulling the wool over the eyes of the establishment and controlling the narrative. At least for a time.

Keep growing little fern.

It is here that the Knight/Rossi story touches on something fundemental about ourselves, our ability to change, to evolove, to grow is not something that we can force. Paradoxically in one lifetime we will live many lives, but those have to come to us naturally, like an unfurling. Sometimes, or that should possibly be often, it can be outside factors which are the catalyst for change. The shock waves of these have to be gone through in the right order, at the right time, and all while trying to keep yourself steady. Even an unremarkable life can have the emotional charge of an adventure movie, each lesson learned along the way precious.

Rossi, faced with the horror of himself, and the great chasim between that and where he wanted to be took the less patient route, the one that meant along the way he did not care what damage he did, instead carearing into a new identity, which he could never fully own, only ever borrow.

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