Pictures of cruise ship rep Domnica Cemortan with her “lover” captain coward Francesco Schettino just a month before the Costa Concordia disaster have emerged this week.
Moldovan Domnica Cemortan , 24, and Francesco Schettino, 52, are pictured at a restaurant table groaning under the weight of fresh oysters and crabs during a stop over on a previous cruise – while his unsuspecting wife Fabiola, was at home with their teenage daughter.
Little more than four weeks after the photograph was taken the spineless skipper recklessly steered the Concordia onto rocks leaving 17 people dead with another 15 still missing – just so he could perform an island “sail by salute” and impress the Moldovan woman.
Captain Francesco Schettino is currently under house arrest while prosecutors investigate allegations of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning Costa Concordia when there were still 300 passengers on board who needed to be rescued.
Last week Domnica Cemortan told prosecutors during more than five hours of questioning that she was “in love” with Francesco Schettino and that she found him “charming and fascinating” and it has also emerged that her underwear and makeup was found in his cabin by police divers.
Investigators believe that Domnica Cemortan was among several “unauthorized” people who were on the bridge at the time Costa Concordia smashed into rocks off the Italian island of Giglio, tearing a 70 m hole in its hull, just two hours after starting a Mediterranean cruise on January 13.
Just a month earlier the couple had wined and dined in an upmarket seafood restaurant at Villafranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera along with other crew members – who were all aware of how “close” the couple were.
The picture was published in Italian glossy weekly Chi which also featured several other pictures of Domnica Cemortan onboard Costa Concordia, arm in arm with crew members, in an evening gown and wearing 3D glasses in the liner’s cinema.
Witnesses have also reported seeing Domnica Cemortan and Francesco Schettino in “high spirits” in Costa Concordia’s Club restaurant just 30 minutes before the ship hit the rocks and they were seen leaving together and heading for the bridge.
During questioning by prosecutors at Grosseto Domnica Cemortan admitted she was on the bridge and told investigators how she had seen Francesco Schettino and the rest of the crew react in the minutes after the ship struck the rocks known as Le Scole – and which the captain claims were not on his navigation charts.
Domnica Cemortan told prosecutors: “I was on the bridge because I was in love with the captain. I found him charming and fascinating. I love him. I was on the bridge as his guest. It’s not right that his image is being destroyed.”
The Moldovan mother-of-one’s revelations came after several Costa Concordia crew members openly described her “close” relationship with Francesco Schettino on Facebook in the days after the disaster – although she had denied being his lover.
Domnica Cemortan had insisted the fact that Francesco Schettino, from Meta di Sorrento near Naples, always carried a photograph of his daughter with him and regularly showed it to crew was proof that he was “a man who was not having an affair”.
Following the tragedy Domnica Cemortan was one of the first off the ship and in an interview with a Moldovan TV station she praised him for his heroism and for saving the lives of hundreds of passengers and crew on Costa Concordia.
Meanwhile judges yesterday rejected a prosecution request to have Francesco Schettino sent back to jail – he is currently under house arrest and investigators feared he was liable to tamper with evidence and also try and escape the country but a court in Florence overturned the application.
Francesco Schettino’s lawyer Bruno Leporatti said: “We are satisfied with the result. The judicial system is working. The court applied the law without being influenced by public opinion. We are all now a lot more at ease.”
Bad weather is also continuing to hamper the search for victims and attempts to pump off more than 500,000 gallons of fuel from the ship’s tanks – Franco Gabrielli, the commissioner in charge of the rescue operation said he expected the ship to remain on rocks at Seagull point for “at least seven to ten months”.