Blonde 'in love' with Italy wreck captain
Rome - A 25-year-old blonde Moldovan dancer who was on board the Costa Concordia told prosecutors that she was "in love" and "a guest" of the doomed cruise ship's captain, Italian newspapers reported on Thursday.
"Yes, it's true. I am in love with captain [Francesco] Schettino," Domnica Cemortan, who has joint Moldovan and Romanian citizenship, was quoted by La Stampa daily as saying to investigators looking into the January 13 tragedy.
The 52-year-old captain is married and has a daughter. Cemortan in earlier interviews had dismissed gossip that she was Schettino's lover saying he was a faithful family man because he had shown her pictures of his daughter.
The woman was also quoted as saying that she was on the bridge when the luxury liner hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13, which caused it to keel over with a loss of 32 lives out of 4 229 people on board.
In an interview with AFP earlier, however, she said that she had been dining with friends when the accident happened. Schettino had told investigators that there was no-one apart from authorised staff on the bridge at the time.
Italian newspapers say that the testimony of the mysterious Moldovan - a former employee of cruise ship operator Costa Crociere - has become a key part of the investigation that is trying to work out who was where when.
Cemortan in earlier interviews in the Moldovan capital Chisinau said Schettino was "a hero" whose actions after the impact saved thousands of lives and she dismissed the accusations against him as "absurd".
The captain, who is under house arrest at his home on the Amalfi coast, and first officer Ciro Ambrosio are accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers were evacuated.