Michael Shields is free.
Free, and back home with his family.
And that is the most important part of today’s memorable events.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw had announced earlier in the day that Michael had been granted a royal pardon.
After spending four-and-a-half years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he was finally going to be able to spend a night in his own bed. His parents and his sisters could sleep in their beds knowing he was finally home, safe and sound. His “living hell”, as he described it today, was finally over.
He wasn’t just let out early from his sentence, he was declared completely innocent. He is still technically guilty in terms of the Bulgarian system, his legal team said they were yet to discuss whether or not to pursue getting the conviction quashed in the former Eastern Bloc state.
But such questions are for another day. Today was the day we finally saw Michael smile; smile properly.
He’d visibly lost weight when compared to his 18-year-old frame of four-and-a-half years ago. He’s 23 in a couple of weeks; four-and-a-half years represents a massive part of his life.
When Michael appeared at a press conference this afternoon he was clearly delighted, although perhaps taken aback by the battery of photographers asking him to look into their cameras. Hardly his worst ordeal of the past four-and-a-half years.
He only spoke briefly, to confidently read a statement that got straight to the point: “I would like to say a massive thank you to all those people out there – including Liverpool and Everton football fans – who have supported me and my family over the last four years by writing letters, by protesting, by marching.
“Your voices were heard. Thanks to you, I knew I would never walk alone. Thank you.”
And that support will continue; Liverpool the city and Liverpool the football club overjoyed to see Michael’s wish finally granted.
Welcome home Michael. When your mum’s finished with you there’s a fair bit of catching up to do on what’s been happening at Anfield. And you’ve all the time in the world to do that catching up.