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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.

Domnica Cemortan and Francesco Schettino pictured at a restaurant table groaning under the weight of fresh oysters and crabs during a stop over on a previous cruise

Domnica Cemortan and Francesco Schettino pictured at a restaurant table groaning under the weight of fresh oysters and crabs during a stop over on a previous cruise

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”.

Divers searching the wreck of Costa Concordia cruise ship have found the body of a woman, bringing the death toll to 17.

Operations to pump fuel from the tanks of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship lying off the Italian coast have been delayed because of bad weather.

Dutch salvage company Smit says it now hopes to begin work next week on pumping more than 2,300 tons of diesel out of the 290m-long vessel.

The woman was wearing uniform, indicating she was a crew member.

The ship ran aground on 13 January with more than 4,200 people on board.

Another 15 people are still missing.

Divers searching the wreck of Costa Concordia cruise ship have found the body of a woman, bringing the death toll to 17

Divers searching the wreck of Costa Concordia cruise ship have found the body of a woman, bringing the death toll to 17

“We were ready this morning [Saturday] to commence oil pumping in the course of the day,” Smit spokesman Martijn Schuttevaer told a news conference.

“Unfortunately the weather had turned in our disadvantage as it deteriorated and therefore towards the end of the morning we had to demobilize our vessel, the Moloria, back from the side of the ship back into the port here.”

Oil pumping is now expected to begin in the middle of next week. Bad weather is forecast until Tuesday.

Smit has withdrawn a barge that had been placed alongside the hulk of the Costa Concordia.

The operation is expected to take about four weeks to complete.

The delay will add to fears that a leak could cause an environmental disaster in the marine national park where the ship capsized.

On Saturday morning divers searching submerged parts of the wreck found the body of a woman, wearing the ship’s uniform, on deck number six. No further details of her identity or nationality have been released.

The Costa Concordia is lying on its side off Giglio island, where it hit rocks at the start of a Mediterranean cruise.

Captain Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest while his actions are being investigated.

Francesco Schettino is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated. He denies the allegations.

Costa Crociere, which is part of the world’s largest cruise ship operator Carnival Group, has offered uninjured passengers 11,000 euros ($14,500) each in compensation, on condition that they drop any legal action.

However, a consumer group and two US law firms are filing a class-action lawsuit in the US, demanding at least $160,000 for each passenger on the ship.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized on Friday, killing at least 11 people, has admitted making a navigation mistake, Italian media say.

Francesco Schettino, 52, told investigators he had “ordered the turn too late” as the luxury ship sailed close to an island, according to a leaked interrogation transcript.

The Costa Concordia ran aground with about 4,200 people on board.

More than 20 people are still missing but the search for survivors has been halted.

According to the leaked transcript quoted by Italian media, Captain Francesco Schettino said the route of the Costa Concordia on the first day of its Mediterranean cruise had been decided as it left the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome, on Friday.

Francesco Schettino reportedly told the investigating judge in the city of Grosseto that he had decided to sail close to Giglio to salute a former captain who had a home on the Tuscan island.

“I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this manoeuvre three or four times,” Francesco Schettino reportedly said.

“But this time I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow. I don’t know why it happened.”

The ship’s owners, Costa Crociere, said earlier this week that the change of route had not been authorized.

On Tuesday, Captain Francesco Schettino’s lawyer said his client had told the judge that lives had been saved thanks to the manoeuvre he made after the ship hit rocks.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized on Friday, killing at least 11 people, has admitted making a navigation mistake

Francesco Schettino, the captain of Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized on Friday, killing at least 11 people, has admitted making a navigation mistake

Francesco Schettino is under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the ship before evacuation was complete.

A recording of a call between him and a port official after the crash appears to support this, though Captain Francesco Schettino denies the claims.

In the recording, released by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Livorno Port Authority chief Gregorio De Falco can be heard repeatedly telling the captain to get back on board to help passengers.

“Schettino, maybe you saved yourself from the sea, but I’ll make you have trouble for sure. Go aboard,” says Gregorio De Falco.

Francesco Schettino appears to refuse, replying first that there are rescuers already on board, and then that it is dark and difficult to see.

Coastguards believe he never went back to the ship. He was arrested on the island shortly afterwards.

During the hearing, Francesco Schettino reportedly said he could not get on board the vessel because it was lying on its side.

Italian media also quote Francesco Schettino as telling the judge he had left the ship accidentally after tripping and falling into a rescue craft.

If the reports of Francesco Schettino’s answers under questioning are correct, then this amounts to an admission of the most reckless incompetence.

Meanwhile, the first dead victim to be identified was a 38-year-old Hungarian violinist, Sandor Feher.

His body was found in the wreck and identified by his mother, Hungary’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The search for survivors has been suspended, with officials saying there is a risk of the Costa Concordia sinking completely in rough seas.

Officials are hoping to begin salvage work soon, including pumping oil off the wreck. There are fears the vessel might slip into deeper water off the Tuscan coast.

A specialist team from a Dutch salvage company is preparing to pump more than 2,300 tons of fuel from the ship’s 17 tanks.

Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini said it should take about 10 days to pump all the fuel out of the ship. He said if the fuel could not be contained the local environment was at risk.

“If we consider 2,400 tons of fuel, the damage could be terrible,” Corrado Clini said.

Corrado Clini said the government would declare a state of emergency later this week to release state funds to deal with any environmental problems

Meanwhile, satellite tracking information published by shipping journal Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows the Costa Concordia had sailed even closer to the island on a cruise last August.

Lloyd’s List said that the vessel passed within 230m of the island on 14 August 2011 to mark La Notte di San Lorenzo – the night of the shooting stars festival on the island.

The route deviation on that occasion had apparently been authorized by Costa Crociere.

Lloyd’s List describes that occasion as a “near miss” and says the ship’s route would have been less than 200m away from the point of collision on Friday’s voyage.

But Richard Meade, editor of Lloyd’s List, said: “The company’s account of what happened, of the rogue master [Capt Francesco Schettino] taking a bad decision, isn’t quite as black and white as they presented originally.

“This ship took a very similar route only a few months previously and the master would have known that.”

At least three people died after Costa Concordia cruise ship carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground off Italy.

The luxury Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio and listed about 20 degrees, after which people tried to reach land in lifeboats or by swimming.

Rescue teams have been going from cabin to cabin, searching for survivors.

Italians, Germans, French and British were among the 3,200 passengers. There were also 1,000 crew on board.

Helicopters evacuated the last 50 people on the deck who were in a “worsening” situation.

Three people were confirmed dead, Italian coast guard officials said on Saturday morning – fewer than the six or eight deaths reported by Italian media earlier.

The Costa Concordia had sailed earlier on Friday from Civitavecchia port near Rome for a Mediterranean cruise, due to dock in Marseille after calling at ports in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain.

1,000 passengers were Italian, with 500 Germans and 160 French.

A few dozen British passengers are believed to have been on board, said the UK Foreign Office, which is sending a team to the scene.

Passengers were eating dinner on Friday evening, when they heard a loud bang, and were told that the ship had suffered electrical problems, one passenger told Italy’s Ansa news agency.

“We were having supper when the lights suddenly went out, we heard a boom and a groaning noise, and allthe cutlery fell on the floor,” said Luciano Castro.

The luxury Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio and listed about 20 degrees

The luxury Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio and listed about 20 degrees

Passenger Mara Parmegiani told Italian media there were “scenes of panic”.

“We were very scared and freezing because it happened while we were at dinner so everyone was in evening wear. We definitely didn’t have time to get anything else. They gave us blankets but there weren’t enough,” she said.

The 290-metre (950 ft) vessel ran aground, starting taking in water and listing by 20 degrees, the local coast guard said.

Orders were given to abandon ship, said Deodato Ordona, a cabin steward on the Costa Concordia.

“We announced a general emergency and took passengers to muster stations,” he said.

“But it is hard to launch the lifeboats, so they moved to the right side of the ship, and they could launch.”

Elderly passengers were crying, said Deodato Ordona, adding that he and some others jumped into the sea and swam roughly 400 metres to reach land.

Rescued passengers are being accommodated in hotels, schools and a church on Giglio, a resort island 25km (18 miles) off Italy’s western coast.

Searches are still going on for “possible missing people”, regional official Giuseppe Linardi told the Italian broadcaster RAI.

Coast guard official Francesco Paolillo, a local coast guard official, told the AFP news agency there was a a 30m hole in the ship but that it was too early to say what exactly had happened.

“We think this happened as a result of sailing too close to an obstacle like a reef,” he said.

Costa Crociera, the company which owns the ship, said it could not yet say what had caused the accident.

“The gradual listing of the ship made the evacuation extremely difficult,” a statement said. “The position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more difficult the last part of the evacuation.

“We’d like to express our deepest gratitude to the coastguard and other emergency services, including the authorities and citizens of the island of Giglio, who did their best in saving and helping the passengers and crew.”

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