A Moldovan dancer who was on the bridge of the ill-fated Costa Concordia on the night that it crashed and sank nearly two years ago has admitted in court that she and the captain were lovers, after having repeatedly denied the rumors in public.
Domnica Cemortan, 26, acknowledged her affair "under intense pressure during cross-examination" in the trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino, according to The Telegraph. Schettino is charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 32 people aboard the ship, which hit a rocky shoal off the island of Giglio on Jan. 13, 2012. He is also accused of abandoning the liner's 4,200 passengers and crew on the night of the wreck.
The Telegraph says Cemortan:
"[Refused] at least three times to answer the question of whether she and the 53-year-old married commander had had a relationship, prompting Giovanni Puliatti, the judge, to threaten her with criminal proceedings unless she told the truth.
"The hearing had to be suspended while Ms Cemortan's lawyer explained to her the gravity of refusing to testify.
"After the hearing reconvened, Miss Cemortan reluctantly admitted to prosecuting lawyer Michelina Suriano that she had been having an affair with the captain, telling the court in Moldovan, 'Yes, I had a relationship with him'.
"Prosecutors say the presence of the dancer on the bridge that night distracted Capt Schettino and contributed to the accident, which cost the lives of 32 people."
The Associated Press reports Cemortan also told the court on Tuesday that she boarded the Costa Concordia as a nonpaying passenger, saying, "When you are someone's lover no one asks you for a ticket." She then dismissed the remark as a joke to her interpreter.
The BBC says that on the night of the disaster, the dancer "had dinner with the captain before he invited her to join him on the bridge as he oversaw what was meant to be a close sail-past" of the island where the vessel ran up on the rocks.
After the ship hit the rocks, Cemortan told the court that the captain had urged her to "save [yourself]."
A week before Schettino's trial started in July of this year, Cemortan had publicly defended his actions, saying he was not a "coward" and blaming subordinates for misunderstanding his orders and causing the disaster.
"It wasn't the captain who made the mistake," she told the Italian television program Pomeriggio 5. "He knew what he was doing, his orders were clear, but the last officer in the chain of command misunderstood to the point that he had to repeat it."