The Moldovan dancer invited on to the bridge of the Costa Concordia the night the luxury cruise ship smashed on to rocks in Italy has sensationally admitted having an affair with Captain Francesco Schettino.
Called yesterday to give evidence at Schettino’s trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship, Domnica Cemortan, 26, refused three times to say whether she was having an affair with Schettino, 53, who is married, before judge Giovanni Puliatti threatened her with criminal charges.
After finally admitting to the relationship – something she has long denied – Ms Cemortan was asked if she had boarded the vessel without a ticket. “When you are the lover of someone they don’t ask for your ticket,” she replied in Moldovan.
She then tried to stop the court interpreter translating the remark into Italian, before claiming she was joking.
Schettino is accused of steering the 114,000 tonne Costa Concordia on to the rocks of the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012 during a “sail past” of the island. Ripped open below the waterline, the ship drifted on to rocks in shallow water and tilted on its side. As the 4,200 passengers and crew struggled to find lifeboats, 32 people drowned.
Investigators reconstructing the moments leading up to the crash have focused on the captain’s relationship with Ms Cemortan, who had worked for three weeks on board the ship as a dancer until December 2011. She boarded the ship as a passenger on 13 January, 2012, hours before joining Schettino on the bridge for the sail past.
Schettino, who has been accused of being distracted by the dancer, claims he was misled by poor charts and has blamed a navigator who failed to understand his instructions.
As Ms Cemortan started to give evidence yesterday, Schettino’s lawyer was telling journalists “there is no truth” in reports that the dancer was having an affair with Schettino.
Ms Cemortan told the court she dined with Schettino after the ship left the port of Civitavecchia, adding that he had he joked that officials on the bridge handling the navigation would need to delay the sail past so he could finish his dessert.
Following the impact on the rocks, Ms Cemortan said she retrieved a civilian jacket from Schettino’s cabin which he put on instead of his uniform jacket. “Save yourself,” he then told her, she recalled, before she left the bridge to board a lifeboat.
When asked by the prosecution if she was having an affair with Schettino, Ms Cemortan’s lawyer objected, but was overruled by the judge, who said the relationship affected the credibility of her testimony.
Ms Cemortan continued to hold out, then admitted “I was his preferred member of staff”, before asking if an “affair” meant having sex. When the judge said, “You must answer,” she finally said, “Yes, it was an affair.”