The captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner has arrived at an Italian court to hear evidence against him at a pre-trial hearing.
Francesco Schettino, 52, was dubbed “captain calamity” after it emerged he had steered the luxury £372m Costa Concordia onto rocks during an island sail-by salute which led to the deaths of 32 people.
He is facing charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a disaster and abandoning a ship while passengers were still on board. Prosecutors say if he is convicted they want him jailed for 2,697 years.
Schettino used a back entrance to slip into the take place Moderno theatre, which is serving as a courtroom, in the town of Grosseto. Wearing dark glasses, Schettino made no comments as he arrived.
Last week, Schettino said he would attend the hearing so he could “show his face”, help his lawyers prove his innocence and reconstruct the events leading to the tragedy.
The court is accommodating the 500 people ranging from an army of lawyers, to passengers who are pursuing civil claims against the ship’s owner, Costa Cruises.
Evidence will be played onto three giant video screens set up inside and extra security has been drafted in to ring the building during the closed-door hearing.
Schettino has been under house arrest at his home in Meta di Sorrento near Naples, but the judge in the case, Valeria Montesarchio, has given him dispensation to attend the hearing, which is expected to last three days.
Prosecutors will outline the case against Schettino and five other officers from the Concordia as well as three senior officials from Genoa-based Costa Cruises’ crisis response team.
Disaster struck in January, just two hours after the state of the art 290-metre-long luxury liner left the Italian port of Civitavecchia for a week’s Mediterranean cruise with 4,200 passengers and crew on board, including 30 Britons.
Schettino is said by prosecutors to have deliberately altered course and steered the Concordia onto rocks just a stone’s throw from the island of Giglio, at a point known as Le Scoglie, tearing a 70-metre gash in the hull.
Maritime regulations say the ship should have been at least five miles out to sea and Schettino has claimed the rocks were not on his charts and the sail-by salutes had been authorised by Costa.
He is also said to have delayed the evacuation by an hour and misinformed maritime authorities of the extent of the damage, telling them simply that the liner had undergone an “electrical blackout”.
Article written by Nick Pisa, courtesy of Sky News.