Captain's lover on Concordia bridge

Domnica CemortanDomnica Cemortan told the court she boarded Costa Concordia as a non-paying passenger

A Moldovan dancer who was on the bridge of the ill-fated Costa Concordia with Captain Francesco Schettino has admitted she was his lover at his trial.

Domnica Cemortan testified that she was in a romantic relationship with the captain and was with him when the cruise ship ran aground.

Capt Schettino is being tried on multiple charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship.

The January 2012 tragedy killed 32.

Capt Schettino faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In testimony earlier in the day, a crew member from the cruise ship told the court he had asked the captain to sail closer to a Tuscan island as a favour to his family.

The ship’s maitre d’ Antonello Tievoli told the court in Grosetto, Italy that he had asked the captain if he could sail close to the island of Giglio because he has family there, news agency AP reported.

The captain obliged on 6 January, but was apparently disappointed with the result, and ordered the ship’s helmsman to plot a closer route for next time.

A week later, the ship ran aground on rocks after veering too close to the island, with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew aboard.

Trial to take weeks

The court is expected to hear evidence from about 1,000 surviving passengers and crew in Capt Schettino’s trial.

The captain has acknowledged fault in the tragedy, but his defence team is arguing the ship sank in part because watertight doors did not function on the ship.

He also told the court in late September that his Indonesian helmsman was to blame for steering the ship onto rocks and ignoring orders to slow down.

However, an Italian naval expert told the trial these were not crucial factors and the crash would have happened anyway.

The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, is one of five employees who were granted plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate proceeding. He was given a sentence of one year and eight months.

The 290m-long vessel was righted last month in one of the largest, most complex salvage operations ever that took 18 hours and followed months of stabilisation and preparation work by a team of 500 engineers and divers.

That operation allowed divers to retrieve the remains of one of the two people still missing in the disaster, a young waiter. An Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, is still unaccounted for.

Plans are now being made to attempt to remove the wreckage of the boat next year.

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