Thursday 19 April 2018

Costa Concordia: Moldovan dancer's lingerie 'found in captain's cabin'

Domnica Cemortan was reportedly seen sharing a decanter of wine the captain half an hour before the Costa Concordia disaster. Photo: Getty Images
Domnica Cemortan was reportedly seen sharing a decanter of wine the captain half an hour before the Costa Concordia disaster. Photo: Getty Images
The Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side after it ran aground off Giglio island. Photo: AP
ATTENTION EDITORS - REUTERS PICTURE HIGHLIGHT TRANSMITTED BY 1110GMT ON JANUARY 18, 2012SRE103Captain Francesco Schettino is seen in this undated file photo. REUTERS NEWS PICTURES HAS NOW MADE IT EASIER TO FIND THE BEST PHOTOS FROM THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES AND TOP STANDALONES EACH DAY. Search for "TPX" in the IPTC Supplemental Category field or "IMAGES OF THE DAY" in the Caption field and you will find a selection of 80-100 of our daily Top Pictures.REUTERS NEWS PICTURES, SINGAPORETEMPLATE OUT
Oil recovery workers pass in front of the Costa Concordia cruise ship. Photo: Reuters

Nick Squires

ITEMS of lingerie belonging to a Moldovan dancer, were found by divers in the cabin of Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Divers found the clothing, as well as a beauty case, when they searched the private cabin of Capt Francisco Schettino, 52, who faces charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter, according to La Repubblica newspaper.

The items are believed to belong to Miss Cemortan, a 25-year-old former cruise ship dancer and tourist rep who had dinner with the captain on the evening that he accidentally steered the 950ft long luxury liner into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Miss Cemortan reportedly told prosecutors in Grosseto, Tuscany, this week that she was “in love” with Capt Schettino, who is married with a teenage daughter.

She was interviewed for nearly six hours on Wednesday by prosecutors in a police station in Grosseto, Tuscany, amid reports that divers had found some of her belongings in Capt Francesco Schettino's cabin.

According to Italian press reports, based on interviews with prosecutors, she said she had fallen deeply for the skipper – despite him having a wife and a teenage daughter.

"I love him, and it's not right to destroy his reputation," Ms Cemortan allegedly told investigators. "Everyone is hammering him."

Passengers have claimed they saw the Moldovan being wined and dined by Capt Schettino, 52, shortly before the accident happened at around 9.40pm on Jan 13.

Ms Cemortan confirmed to prosecutors that the captain had invited her up onto the bridge as his guest, to see the ship perform a 'salute' of the island of Giglio. "I was on the bridge," she reportedly said.

The captain misjudged the manoeuvre, sailing to within 150 yards of the shore and smashing into a rocky shoal, ripping a huge gash in the hull.

He then grounded the 950ft-long vessel on a different part of Giglio's coast and belatedly ordered the evacuation of its 4,200 passengers and crew.

The death toll stands at 17, with 15 people still missing, presumed dead.

Francesco Verusio, the chief prosecutor in the case, said Ms Cemortan's testimony would be key in establishing exactly what happened on the bridge that night and whether the captain was distracted – as claimed by some of his officers.

"There are many witnesses and each one will offer their point of view," Mr Verusio said. "We're comparing all the different versions to see how they fit together." Electronic data recovered from the ship's black box would also be vital, he said.

Ms Cemortan is not accused of any offence. Capt Schettino is under house arrest at his home in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, and faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship ahead of passengers and crew members.

He could face at least 12 years in prison.

Passengers claim to have seen and photographed a young blonde woman resembling Ms Cemortan eating dinner and sharing a decanter of red wine with him less than 40 minutes before the collision happened.

Ms Cemortan had worked for Costa Cruises as a dancer and passenger rep, but she was on the week-long cruise as a guest.

It has been reported that she did not have her own cabin. La Repubblica newspaper offered an explanation for the unusual arrangement when it claimed that some of the former dancer's belongings were found in Capt Schettino's cabin, suggesting that they were sharing.

Investigators have meanwhile identified a mystery woman who turned up on Giglio on the morning after the disaster and spirited Capt Schettino away from television cameras.

She is a lawyer for Costa Cruises and will be questioned by prosecutors in coming days.

The woman was photographed with the captain in the lobby of the Hotel Bahamas, in Giglio's main port, where he briefly took refuge before being arrested by police.

There were fresh concerns over the stability of the stricken ship, which lies on its side in shallow water, after it shifted three inches in seven hours on Wednesday.

Rough seas buffeted the wreck, again delaying the operation to start removing the 500,000 gallons of diesel and heavy oil in its fuel tanks.

A large gap opened up between two glass panels that formed part of the vessel's roof, raising fears that the bad weather is weakening the structure of the luxury liner.

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