The fugitive who killed his date in a speedboat crash will remain in a Georgian jail for at least three months after a court heard he planned to flee to Thailand.
Jack Shepherd, 31, appeared before a judge in Tbilisi to argue that he could not be extradited back to the UK because he had been threatened he faced “dark days” in prison and feared for his life.
The alleged warning was made in a phone call by Graham Brown, his victim’s grieving father, who has vehemently denied ever speaking to him.
During the brief 30-minute court appearance, Shepherd sought to recast himself as a victim rather than a convicted killer whose drunken decision to take Charlotte Brown, 24, out on the Thames in his defective speedboat in the middle of a freezing December night had cost her life.
The web designer, from Devon, said he had been depressed and suicidal ever since.
His lawyers even tried to suggest that the Old Bailey jurors who convicted him of manslaughter by gross negligence in his absence last July, three months after he went on the run, had been swayed by their emotions and were not in possession of the full facts.
They claimed there was “no evidence” of his guilt and said jurors did not get a chance to hear his version of events or consider his own psychological condition.
The appearance was Shepherd’s first before a court since November 2017 and came as it emerged the Ministry of Justice had launched an investigation into his finances that could claw back more than £30,000 in legal aid if he is found to have hidden assets.
Dressed in a blue jacket and light blue shirt, he smiled at his lawyers as he was brought into the small, packed room at Tbilisi City Court in handcuffs and crouched forward to listen as a translator kept him abreast of proceedings.
Addressing the judge from an enclosed dock, he said: “Not a day goes by when I don’t think of the loss of Charlotte’s life and the effect it has had on her family.
“Sometime after the accident, I felt depressed and suicidal at what had happened. That why I have no been able to speak about it and I regret not talking part in the trial.
“I wish I had sat down with Charlotte’s family and explained. I can see that not doing that has caused them great pain and suffering.”
His apparent contrition contrasts sharply with the picture that has emerged of Shepherd’s life on the run in Georgia, where he is said to have learnt to ski, enjoyed dinner dates and made the most of Tblisi’s vibrant nightlife
His lawyers said he wanted to remain in Georgia and conduct his appeal against his conviction from there.
Tariel Kakabadze, defending, alleged that Mr Brown had “levelled threats” at him in a phone call.
Timeline: Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd
“There are grounds to believe that if he is extradited back to the UK, it may endanger his life,” he said.
Another member of his defence team, Marian Kublashvili, a local celebrity who once starred in the Georgian version of Come Dancing, added: “Who will take responsibility if something bad happens to him?”
Prosecutors warned that Shepherd could not be given bail as there was evidence he “intended to travel onward to Thailand or Indonesia” from Georgia and was considered a flight risk, noting that he had no close ties to the country.
The judge also heard that he was wanted in the UK on a GBH charge after allegedly knocking a barman unconscious with a vodka bottle in Devon just hours before he absconded.
He ruled that Shepherd must be detained for three months, pending the next extradition hearing. He will be held in Tbilisi’s maximum security facility, Gldani Prison, home to murderers and rapists.
The facility was at the centre of an abuse scandal in 2012 that saw it likened to Abu Ghraib after inmates were filmed being beaten and raped by guards.
Among the small number of possessions Shepherd requested to take into custody are copies of The Essential Kafka and Pride and Prejudice and an album of photographs of his estranged wife, whom he married two months after the fatal accident, and his two-year-old son.
The extradition process could last up to ten months if he fights it, as his lawyers have indicated.
The Crown Prosecution Service said prosecutors were "consulting with the authorities in Georgia to progress our extradition request". Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has also pressed for his swift return to the UK.