Stranded in a rented Cypriot holiday villa while she waits to hear her fate, it has been a grim week for the British girl at the centre of the Ayia Napa gang rape case.
Convicted of making up a claim that she was brutally assaulted by 12 Israeli teenagers in July last year, the 19-year-old from Derbyshire must wait until next week to find out if the Cypriot courts will send her to prison, or whether — finally — she will be allowed to return home to her family.
But amid widespread outrage at her conviction — not least from the Foreign Office which describes her case as ‘deeply distressing’ — comes a glimmer of hope from the unlikeliest quarter.
In Israel, where public opinion initially swung behind the 12 teenage boys accused of sexually assaulting the British girl at a down-at-heel Ayia Napa hotel, sympathy for their plight is rapidly running out.
No longer viewed as a group of wronged innocents, there has been an outpouring of revulsion at the part this group of boys — aged between 16 and 19 — played in the deeply disturbing events that took place in room 723 that night. Three of them readily admit that they had sex with the then 18-year-old British teen. Others admit watching and filming the revolting spectacle on their phones.
An Israeli teenager is embraced by relatives after being released from Famagusta police headquarters in southeast town of Paralimni, Cyprus. But public opinion has now turned against the teenagers
Stranded in a rented Cypriot holiday villa while she waits to hear her fate, it has been a grim week for the British girl at the centre of the Ayia Napa gang rape case (she is pictured leaving court on Monday)
One even appeared on national TV, describing the events of that night with the cavalier air of a youngster recalling a trip to a holiday theme park, provoking revulsion and shame among audiences.
What is rapidly becoming clear is that, consent or no consent, these boys behaved like a pack of feral animals, dragging Israel’s reputation into the mire. And for a country where religion and family play a central role in shaping culture and lifestyle, that is unforgivable.
This week, two of Israel’s top celebrity journalists, Guy Meroz and Orly Vilnai — the Richard and Judy of Tel Aviv — described how they’d travelled to Cyprus and interviewed the British girl many times and are convinced she is telling the truth.
‘She was raped without question,’ Orly told viewers yesterday. ‘We are both convinced she was physically raped. We met a wonderful young woman whose trauma was loud and clear in almost all her behaviour. She bites her fingernails, at times she “gets stuck” and goes into a world from which she needs to be woken up.’
Another scathing editorial in the Jerusalem Post sums it up: ‘There should be reflection over the depths to which Israeli society has plummeted, where it’s seen as perfectly normal behaviour — spurred by this alarming era of widespread, easy-access online pornography — for several friends to share a sexual partner, film the proceedings and then share the video with others.’
Some of the Israeli men who were initially accused of rape are seen arriving in court on July 25. The woman’s family say police protected them and treated her as a criminal from the start
In the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, columnist Shany Littman goes further, likening the decision to convict the British teen to the plot of the Netflix series Unbelievable, which is based on the true story of a rape victim who recants her claim after being threatened with legal action by suspicious detectives.
Closer to home, Jewish Chronicle columnist Miriam Shaviv described the group as ‘scumbags who treated a woman like a piece of meat’.
What a contrast to the heroes’ welcome given to the 12 Israeli teenagers last July when they were released from custody in Cyprus and flew home to their families. Amid hugely distasteful scenes at Ben-Gurion Airport, some were filmed, wearing traditional kippah caps, cracking open bottles of champagne and chanting ‘the Brit is a wh**e’.
Concerns have been raised too that the accused teenagers’ families have connections with the Israeli establishment which, in turn, has close strategic and commercial ties to the government in Nicosia.
The father of one of the boys is a close adviser to Moshe Leon, the mayor of Jerusalem. The Israeli minister for ‘regional co-operation’ has said that he too is close friends with the parents of two of the boys. On Thursday, just days after the teen’s guilty verdict was delivered, the leaders of Cyprus and Israel met to sign a billion-dollar gas ‘EastMed’ pipeline deal in Athens, further emphasising their close ties.
Cypriot police have already been forced to deny claims that they dragged the retraction out of the teenager because they were under pressure to protect Cyprus’s multi-billion pound tourism industry and its good relations with Israel.
Yet the origins of this unsavoury tale, which has reached the highest echelons of government, started innocently. Playing a central role was a 17-year-old professional footballer, who, in photos seen by the Mail, packs a set of abdominal muscles as ripped as his designer jeans.
He’d checked into the 40-euros-a-night Pambos Napa Rocks hotel with two friends last July. There he met the then 18-year-old British girl, who arrived at the non-stop party resort on July 10 on a package holiday combining tourism and bar work. Photos of her, which have leaked onto the internet, show an equally attractive young girl. Initially at least, they must have made an impressive pair.
In Israel, where public opinion initially swung behind the 12 teenage boys accused of sexually assaulting the British girl at a down-at-heel Ayia Napa hotel, sympathy for their plight is rapidly running out
The woman accused 12 Israeli men of raping her in August but later recanted the accusation, which she says she was pressured to do by police. The men (pictured hear arriving at a court in July) have already been freed
Their courtship — several days before the incident — seems almost sweet; a three-way conversation facilitated by a friend of the boy who translated back and forth between Hebrew and English.
They began exchanging messages via Instagram. In one he says: ‘Good morning my love’ before adding ‘Let’s hang out a bit’. The teen replies: ‘Yeah maybe where you tonight’. Later she messages to say that she has spotted him on the balcony. He asks: ‘So why did not you come up to me?’, adding several hours later, ‘Come to me in the evening’.
Undoubtedly, neither considered that what would happen there would wreck lives and mark the beginning of a legal and diplomatic scandal of international proportions.
The British teenager has never denied that the sex she had with the boy she had been messaging was initially consensual. It was on a visit to his room on another night, three days later, however, that she claims his drunken friends burst in and took it in turns to sexually assault her while holding her down.
According to her original account of the attack: ‘I told them they had to go. My boyfriend told me to lie on the bed and . . . put his knees on my shoulders. There was a lot of shouting in Hebrew. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to throw my head about and his friends were coming in all shouting and jeering. I tried to cross my legs. I was trying to throw my arms about. I don’t know how many of them raped me. I couldn’t see.’
A grainy sex recording from the night of the alleged attack was also leaked to the Israeli media. It reportedly shows one Israeli telling the girl in Hebrew, ‘You’re my wh**e. Say you’re my wh**e.’ When she asks what he is saying, another boy replies: ‘We are saying you’re sexy.’ The teen, who fled in tears, was taken to a 24-hour clinic next door to the hotel and the police were called. A friend who was with her that night subsequently told the Mail: ‘She was in tears and just so distressed. She said they took it in turns and it was all of them. They held her down. When I saw her she was covered with bruises.’
Around a dozen activists attended the hearing, then protested the verdict outside court
Cypriot women’s rights activists protest outside court wearing masks that show a pair of lips stitched together which has become a symbol of their movement in recent weeks
The boyfriend was arrested just hours later. According to the initial police report, he initially denied any kind of sexual relationship, before admitting that he and a friend had indeed had sex with a British girl.
Later, he changed his story again, admitting that the ‘consensual’ sex he and his friend had with the girl had been watched by others.
A witness also claimed to have earlier overheard the Israeli teens bragging they were going to ‘do orgies’ with her. Within hours, the 12 Israeli teens had been arrested. Three of them admitted sexual activity with the girl but said it was consensual. Others were tied to the scene by DNA evidence or footage of the incident on their phones.
One of them showed detectives a film on his mobile phone he made of himself having sex with the girl, believing it proved there was no rape involved. He later gave his highly distasteful version of events to an Israeli TV station, showing not a trace of remorse about what happened that night.
‘The things I saw there were completely routine in my eyes,’ he said. ‘Sodom and Gomorrah is what goes on there. We won’t detail what we saw and what goes on there daily. I felt it was OK, it was legitimate. I didn’t see any problem.
‘There were three of us in the room and there were more people outside who wanted to come in, who came in, and went out. They didn’t actually do anything but they did see and were part of everything that went on there.
‘You could see in her eyes that she wanted it and you can see it in all of the videos. In none of them does she look like she’s suffering or shouting for help.
‘The police seized a video tape in which you can see that the door is being opened and instead of yelling for help she says “Close the door”. A woman who is being raped doesn’t say that.’
The bedroom where the teenager claimed the attack had taken place
The room of the Aiya Napa hotel room where the teenager claimed she had been attacked
Pressed by an Israeli interviewer as to whether the woman gave permission for the filming, he blithely replied: ‘I didn’t hear her say: “Don’t photograph”. I even thought she was for it. I understood she had no problem with it and everything was OK; that she was used to such things.’
Experts say that there is no norm of behaviour among victims of sex attacks. The argument that a woman consents to sex just because she says ‘close the door’ or fails to say ‘don’t photograph’ is tenuous to say the least.
But the British teenager’s rape claims were never tried out in court because, after seven hours of police interviews, which were conducted without the presence of a lawyer and were not recorded, she retracted her claims and, ten days after her initial rape claim, signed a statement saying that the incident had been consensual.
This week, a British forensic linguist shown the girl’s statement by the Mail said it was likely to have been written by a non-English speaker, adding to fears that it may have been dictated.
She said in court last month that the police had forced her to change her story and that she was ‘scared for my life’. But during her trial, prosecutors alleged that she had been humiliated after discovering she had been filmed by the Israeli boys and had made the accusations in revenge.
This contradicts her claim that she was unaware that she had been filmed until police produced the footage and that she was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the attack.
Before finding her guilty of ‘public mischief’, judge Michalis Papathanasiou said ‘she did not make a good impression on the court’. Earlier, he had refused to allow evidence from her defence lawyers on the basis that her case was ‘not a rape case’ and that ‘I will not consider whether she was raped or not’.
Amid widespread criticisms of Papathanasiou’s handling of the case, her mother says that her daughter is suffering from PTSD and hallucinations and has missed out on a place at university because of her detention on the island where she has already spent four-and-a-half weeks in jail. A psychologist who has examined her says she is experiencing ‘extremely frightening’ symptoms including ‘emotional numbing, flashbacks and nightmares’.
Even Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has waded into the row saying that he would be raising the ‘deeply distressing case’ with the Cypriot authorities. The Foreign Office says it is ‘seriously concerned’ about whether she was given a fair trial.
Last July, just days after the British teen claimed she had been raped, the Mail visited the hotel and found a scene a world away from the pristine promotional pictures found on its website.
A judge branded the woman an ‘unreliable witness’, said she had admitted her own guilt, and ‘knows she was never raped’ as he set a sentencing hearing for January 7
The grounds surrounding the low-rise hotel were covered in discarded silver ‘hippy crack’ canisters and empty bottles of alcohol and thousands of cigarette butts. Inside, the corridors were littered with filthy discarded mattresses, ripped and stained bed sheets and dismantled bed frames. The doors to the rooms were often left open so that teenagers could socialise with their neighbours.
Room 723, where a new group of Israeli boys had arrived to begin their own holiday, contained three stained mattresses placed side by side on the sticky tiled floor. One of the occupants had passed out on one.
The new residents were well aware of the alleged gang-rape that had taken place in their room and even claimed to have known the boys involved. They had all seen the vile video made of the British girl allegedly having sex with the men which went viral in both Israel and Ayia Napa. One described it as ‘your normal orgy’, adding that the boyfriend is his friend and is a ‘good guy’ while dismissing the British teen involved as a ‘wh**e’.
She is due to be sentenced on January 7, when she could be ordered to pay a £1,500 fine and serve up to a year in prison, but even then her ordeal will not be over.
Aside from her intention to appeal her conviction, a lawyer for four of the Israeli youths said this week that they intend to sue her for damages despite the fact that, theoretically, the young men could also face charges for distributing explicit personal data without her permission.
Last summer, in perhaps the most ridiculous twist in this ongoing saga, the Mayor of Ayia Napa even threatened to take legal action against the British teenager unless she publicly apologised for sullying the name of the resort.
But if the deeply disturbing events which took place there last July show anything, it’s that this debauched corner of Cyprus has no reputation to defend.
Doctor who treated British teenager convicted of making up rape claims against Israeli men in Cyprus says he ‘believed’ the 19-year-old after he saw her ‘crying and screaming’
By Inderdeep Bains for the Daily Mail
A doctor who reported the alleged Cyprus gang rape to police said he ‘believed’ the British teenager after he saw her ‘crying and screaming’.
The woman – who is facing jail on Tuesday after being convicted of making up the assault – insists she was held down and raped by 12 Israeli youths at a budget hotel in Ayia Napa in July.
But ten days later she was hauled back in for questioning without a lawyer, and says police forced her to sign a fake retraction and charged her with causing ‘public mischief’.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday intervened after the 19-year-old pleaded for help because she was ‘running out of time’. Sources say Mr Raab called the Cypriot foreign minister to outline the UK’s ‘serious concerns’ over the fairness of the young woman’s shambolic five-month court case, during which the judge branded her a ‘liar’ and said she made up the rape in revenge for being filmed without her consent.
In the early hours of July 17, the teenager was taken to the Santa Marina clinic which is adjacent to the two-star Pambos Napa Rocks hotel where the alleged attack took place
Cypriot doctor Sergios Sergiou, who was one of the first people to see the young woman in the moments after the incident, said he felt she was telling the truth, adding that she was so distraught she passed out.
In the early hours of July 17, the teenager was taken to the Santa Marina clinic which is adjacent to the two-star Pambos Napa Rocks hotel where the alleged attack took place.
Her friend had taken her to the doctor when she found her ‘distraught’ and terrified that the ‘Israeli boys were coming for her’ after she managed to escape the room. Dr Sergiou said: ‘She was very stressed and having a panic attack. She was crying and screaming and her friends said to me some guys had raped her.
‘I asked her (what happened) but she did not speak to me. She was crying and she said, “I don’t want men next to me”. When I went to check her and see if she’s okay, she said to me, “go away from me”. That’s when I called the police because at the time it’s not something I could treat.’
Convicted of making up a claim that she was brutally assaulted by 12 Israeli teenagers in July last year, the 19-year-old from Derbyshire must wait until next week to find out if the Cypriot courts will send her to prison
Asked if he believed she was attacked, he told Israeli TV: ‘Yes, I thought that something happened. Usually if something is fake they are not calling their parents to inform them. But she was calling her parents.’
It came as the husband-and-wife film-making team of Orly Vilnai and Guy Meroz said they also believed the teenager after interviewing her and her mother. Miss Vilnai told Walla News: ‘I identified strongly when her mother told about a regular morning in a town in northern England, when she went to work, and… suddenly her daughter called and said, “Mother, I have been gang-raped”. And suddenly the sky had fallen, and that’s it, life would never go back to the way it was.’
Mr Meroz said the young woman was so traumatised that she ‘chewed the skin on her fingers’ constantly during their interview but still tried to ‘shield’ her mother from the full details.
The couple asked the teenager and her mother how they had endured the gruelling case.
Miss Vilnai said: ‘They both said the same thing. The girl said, “I have to protect my mother so she feels I’m okay”. And the mother said, “I am keeping a calm exterior so my daughter feels okay”. They are both very much protecting each other.’
UK tour operator Summer Takeover – which the teenager booked her holiday with – said last night it would no longer operate in Ayia Napa.
Has this happened before? Mother tells of how her daughter was raped in Cyprus and made to retract her statement in case that bears striking similarities to British student who claims to have been gang-raped
By Emine Sinmaz for the Daily Mail
A mother has told how her daughter was raped in Cyprus and made to retract her statement in a case that bears striking similarities to the British student who claims to have been gang-raped.
The woman, who identified herself as Helen from Milton Keynes, said her daughter Sarah was raped while on holiday at the age of 20. But she ended up going to prison for ‘wasting police time’ after she was persuaded to withdraw her statement. Her alleged rapist was allowed to go home following the assault 15 years ago.
Helen told Radio 2: ‘Sarah was raped and went to report it to police. She went with the holiday rep, the police took a statement and then they took her down to the hospital.
‘They managed to find the rapist and questioned him at length and at one point he was actually even brought into the room that she was in.
‘She begged for them to take him away but they left him in the room with her, with a policeman in the corner, and he was begging and saying how sorry he was and he’d got carried away. The police heard all this, but they decided it was my daughter that was lying – not him.’
Helen said she flew out to Cyprus as soon as Sarah’s friends told her what had happened. ‘We got legal support, although looking back on it and with hindsight, I think the Cyprus legal system is as corrupt as the police.’