A GRANDFATHER cleared of murder in Tenerife has been left stranded on the holiday island after he was caught up in a fresh legal wrangle.
Stephen Johnson was found not guilty of the fatal stabbing of a Moroccan man in the resort of Playa de Las Américas.
The unanimous verdict at a hearing in Santa Cruz earlier this month followed a three-and-a-half year ordeal on bail.
The 56-year-old businessman, who always maintained he only acted as a good Samaritan to try and stop a fight, expected to return to his family home in Elvet Green, Hetton, this weekend.
But while his co-accused Bryan O’Connell, who was also cleared over the 2008 attack, is back home in Liverpool, Stephen has been “left in limbo” by the Spanish authorities.
“I’ve absolute no idea what is going on,” he said.
“I was all ready to travel back at the weekend, but when we got to the court to get my passport back, they told me I couldn’t have it until the paperwork was sorted out.
“I’ve been left in limbo. The other guy was allowed back on Monday and he was in exactly the same position as me. The system is so unfair.
“I don’t know why they’ve held me back.”
The dad-of-three, who runs Stepys Coaches and used to sponsor the Durham and District Sunday Football League, fears red tape could keep him in Tenerife for months.
“They are still charging me with brawling, but they say I won’t get my passport back until the judge has served the sentence on me,” he said.
“There is probably going to be a fine and a suspended sentence.
“I was initially told that I could go back home while all the details were being sorted out, then I’d go back later to take care of the paperwork.
“Now they have suddenly changed their minds.”
Stephen was arrested after going to the aid of fellow Brit, Mr O’Connell, 31, who was being attacked.
“From day one, it has been a complete farce,” he said. “Even though I’ve been cleared, they still want to keep me here.”
Stephen’s wife Joan, who recently returned to the UK after attending the court hearing, was left devastated when she heard about the delay.
The couple marked their 33rd wedding anniversary on Friday.
“Once again, the Spanish legal system has let us down and we are again in turmoil,” she said.
“Stephen’s lawyer contacted the court on Wednesday to request the return of his passport to enable him to travel home.
“Stephen was told to present himself to the High Court in Santa Cruz on Thursday.
“Before he made the one-and-a-half-hour journey, his interpreter contacted one of the court staff to confirm that everything would be in order when he got there. She confirmed that he should encounter no problems.
“However, on arrival at the court he was informed that his passport was not available for collection, as the necessary paperwork had not yet been signed off by the judge.
“This could possibly take up to another two weeks. Our main concern is that on July 31 the High Court closes down for one month.”