A blonde Moldovian woman who is at the centre of a mystery over the final hours of the Costa Concordia before it ran aground has denied she is Captain Francesco Schettino’s lover.
It was reported Schettino, 52, was trying to impress the 25-year-old when the vessel collided with rocks, tearing a hole in its side.
But Ms Cemortan today told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper: “I’m not the captain’s lover.
“You know why? He was showing me photos of his daughter when she was little. A man who wants a lover does not behave like that.”
Ms Cemortan was apparently seen sharing a decanter of wine with Schettino 30 minutes before the tragedy, the Telegraph reported.
She was reportedly photographed by several passengers sharing an intimate meal with the captain – although she has claimed she was having dinner with several of the ship’s officers.
Prosecutors have accused Captain Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship while passengers were still stranded.
The rescue mission was called off today a week after the tragedy after stormy weather made conditions perilous for divers.
The news was greeted with despair by relatives of those still missing – including five-year-old Dayana Arlotti, who was with her father William when the liner began to sank.
A Facebook page has been set up dedicated to continuing the search for Dayana, who is youngest missing person out of the two dozen crew and passengers who are still unaccounted for.
"We are still hoping, even if day after day it’s getting harder” a relative, wrote. Her mother also made an appeal on Italy's most popular chat show, Porta a Porta.
“I am asking the rescuers to keep on looking for Dayana. I am asking them with all my heart to continue the search.”
Earlier this week, Italian media published a recording of a conversation between Schettino and the port authorities in which the captain was ordered not to abandon his stricken ship after it hit rocks.
Schettino, who is currently under house arrest, had begun by claiming everything was fine, shortly before the ship keeled over off the Tuscan coast with 4,200 on board, according to the timings of the recording.
Italians are venting spleen against Schettino with T-shirts, Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags urging him to “Get Back On Board, For F****’s Sake”.
The command, made via telephone by a furious Italian Coast Guard official has come to symbolise the entire disaster.