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A mixed martial arts fighter has opened up about spending 10 years on the run after being wrongfully jailed for a crime he did not commit.
Shaqueme Rock, from Liverpool, was told he was going to get remanded into custody on aggravated burglary charges, for a crime that took place in the Wirral in 2014.
At the time, police said the occupier of the property was assaulted and cash was taken.
The scared teenager, who was worried about getting trapped in the system, remained adamant over his innocence - so much so, he fled to Malaysia, where he thought he wouldn't be caught.
Nicknamed Shem, he travelled to the country to live with his elder brother. All of his loved ones from back home were left behind and he was constantly looking over his shoulder for cops.
Shem told LADbible: "When I first ever left on the run, I didn't think I'd last longer than two weeks. So after two weeks, anything past that was a bonus.
"Like at first it was challenging, yeah, because I just went over there with a little bit of savings that I had. I had no job, never worked a job in my life. I was lucky I didn't have to pay rent because I was staying in my brother's house, there's always food in the house, I was lucky in that regard, in the beginning."
Feeling lost at the time, he added: "So when he's in work every day, I'm just by myself. I didn't really see him that much. So that's how I kind of found jiu jitsu because I needed something to do to pass the time when I needed a hobby."
Although fighting was now a way of life for Shem, who was training three times a day, he still missed his loved ones.
He said: "The hardest thing was family. And like people growing up in the family were babies when I left or nieces or nephews that I've never met before. I always used to think like 'what happens if my granddad passes away and I can't be there for the funeral'.
"Things like that used to play on my mind. But at the same time, I got to do what I have to do to better myself so I can then ultimately better my family when I come back. That's all I kept thinking about."
"I f*****g missed my ma's cooking, I'll tell you that one," he added.
Speaking on how he got into MMA, he explained: "One day I was just bored, walked down the road, saw a sign for 'Brazilian Jujitsu'. I went in, tried it and that day I got choked out by women, by kids, everyone.
"And I remember going home and just scratching my head and thinking, 'I don't know what that is, but whatever that is, I need to learn this'.
"And I just started going in the gym every day, three times a day. In the beginning, I just wanted to learn how to fight and how to defend myself. But over time, I started to compete. I was winning in jujitsu tournaments in different countries, travelling all over Southeast Asia."
Shem's jujitsu coach, Bruno, suggested to switch to MMA because the money was better and the Liverpudlian took part in on a TV series called One Warrior - which he successfully won.
Usually, the two winners obtain a pro MMA contract as a prize. However, Shem was refused his reward and claims Merseyside Police 'put the blocks on everything' and his contract supposedly got terminated.
Shem said: "If we train, even in secret, you'll get fired. So then I thought 'f**k this, I'm leaving Asia, there's no point now'."
Shem then opted to move to Dublin and even managed to get a spot at Conor McGregor's gym. Although, because he was a wanted man, he 'got kicked out of there for the same reasons', he claims.
After joining 'Dublin Combat Academy', a muay thai gym, things started to pick up, as he managed to get a world title fight in Belfast.
However, on Saturday, 9 October, after defending his belt, the Police Service of Northern Ireland were waiting for him and subsequently had him arrested, bringing him back to Liverpool.
Shem ended up serving six months in HM Prison Liverpool (formerly Walton Gaol) before he was found not guilty.
Speaking on what it was like in jail, Shem said: "You get out your cell for 30 minutes a day. That's it. large majority of time they never even open the yard so I never seen sun light for maybe three, four months. There's loads of rats, cockroaches, no clean food.
"You don't even know what's going to happen. Am I being sentenced, am I getting released? I'm showing my case to people and saying 'look this is my case'.
"Every single person I spoke to said 'Bro, are you running trial? Wow, you're gonna get 10 years'. This is what people were telling me, 'plead guilty, plead guilty, plead guilty'.
"Why would I plead guilty for a crime I haven't committed? 'Because if you plead guilty, we can get you the deal and you'll only do five years, but if you plead not guilty, you're gonna get seven to 11 years.'
"Oh that case, should I just plead guilty for something I haven't done? Look, you know, when you're in that jail system. You get lost in the system. People don't care about you. You disappear."
But if it wasn't for his manager, Siju Roseje, who is the founder and CEO MMA TV, Shem would have remained wrongly imprisoned.
The way they met was completely accidental because Roseje - whose nickname is Sid - coincidently befriended Shem's uncle at an event his nephew was competing at.
Shem's uncle 'hadn't seen him since he was a little kid'.
He explained: "When he comes out of the ring. His uncle obviously starts talking. Then after the event, he introduced me to him. He's like, 'Oh, you should manage him'.
"So he was pushing it and I was like, you know, 'yeah, no problem'.
Fast forward a year, Shem joins Sid's management team and the CEO finds out about his situation.
Sid claims he knew Shem was innocent from the start so he put together a legal team, which eventually proved him to be not guilty.
Shem's solicitor, Blondel Thompson, said: "Shaqueme appeared before HH Judge Aubrey QC sitting at Liverpool Crown Court on the 6/4/22 for trial with a time estimate of 3 days.
"The initial indictment contained two counts of: Aggravated Burglary and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm.
"Count one was amended to read Burglary as the Co-defendant had been offered this count in 2014 and had tendered guilty pleas to both counts and sentenced.
"The main crown witness was cross examined on the basis he was lying about Shaqueme whose defence has always been that he was not present when the offences were committed.
"Closing arguments were presented by the crown and defence, the judge summed up the evidence before the jury retired to consider their verdicts.
"The jury returned unanimous Not Guilty verdicts on both counts."
Merseyside Police refused to comment on the case due to data protection reasons.
Shem has now been a free man for a matter of weeks and is very much grateful for his manager for believing in him.
The Liverpudlian who's now 28-years-old has his sights set on the UFC.
Despite the difficulty of being jailed and away from his family for 10 years, Shem is reunited with his mother and says: "The sky is the limit."
His next title fight on 3rd September at Contenders Crystal Palace and will be shown on https://www.mmatv.com/.
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