Imposter: The Man Who Came Back from the Dead, review: Absurd true-crime tale ends with a bombshell

Nicholas Rossi leaving court during his extradition hearing
Nicholas Rossi leaving court during his extradition hearing - Andrew Milligan/PA

The latest you-couldn’t-make-it-up true-crime series is a tale of light and dark. The FBI has been hunting a man named Nicholas Rossi. They claim that he faked his own death and moved to Scotland under the alias Arthur Knight. When Arthur Knight turns up in Imposter: The Man Who Came Back from the Dead (Channel 4), he cuts a truly ridiculous figure.

Speaking in a cod upper-class English accent, dressed either in a dressing gown and monogrammed slippers or a Churchillian three-piece suit and hat, he is confined to a wheelchair and wheezing through a mask connected to an oxygen tank, despite a court being told that there is no medical need for either accessory. He insists that he is the victim of mistaken identity. This engrossing four-part documentary sets out to prove otherwise. Each episode brings new revelations, including a bombshell in the final instalment.

The film-makers employ some quirky stylistic touches – an Ennio Morricone-esque score, brightly coloured captions introducing the contributors as The Politician, The Attorney, The Vegan Entrepreneur – as if this were Catch Me if You Can done by Quentin Tarantino. This approach reflects the absurdities of the story, which don’t end with Rossi’s appearance.

His stepfather boasts about being America’s greatest Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator and breaks into song at inopportune moments. Even the Catholic priest booked for Rossi’s fake funeral speaks like a TV character: “You don’t have to kiss my ass for me to do a funeral mass.”

But the heart of this story is not remotely funny. Rossi has been extradited to face charges of rape. He is a convicted sex offender. His former wife, appearing on camera, alleged that Rossi was a domestic abuser, and she was so terrified of him that she fled the marital home in such panic that she drove through a red light and caused a head-on collision.

Miranda Knight claims her husband is not Nicholas Rossi
Miranda Knight claims her husband is not Nicholas Rossi - Channel 4

As per the disclaimer at the end of the programme, he “continues to claim he is Arthur Knight, and denies all of Nicholas Rossi’s crimes”. The storytelling tips backwards and forwards in time, but a clear picture builds of Rossi’s pattern of behaviour. The word “psychopath” comes up more than once.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the documentary, though, is the role of Miranda, the current – and British – wife to “Arthur Knight”. In a series of interviews, she gives him her undying support. “My husband is not American. He is not Nicholas Rossi,” she insists. “We were such a normal couple before this all happened. We love the National Trust.” Why does she appear so certain of his innocence? You will form your own conclusions.