British woman says she was forced into retracting rape claim by Cyprus police threats

A British teenager who claims she was gang raped by Israeli tourists in a holiday resort in Cyprus today said that she feared for her life after “aggressive” police allegedly forced her to sign a retraction.

The 19 year old told a court that she underwent around eight hours of questioning, without a lawyer or family member, after police accused her of fabricating the rape story. 

They allege that she made it up because she was embarrassed and humiliated to learn that she had been filmed having sex with at least one of the Israeli men.

The teenager denied that, insisting she had been raped and saying that police put her under intense pressure to sign the retraction.

They told her that unless she did so “the next time I see my mum I will be in handcuffs in a courtroom,” she told the court.

The British woman claimed in July that during a night out in Ayia Napa, a wild party town on the southern coast of Cyprus, she was taken advantage of by a group of 12 Israeli tourists, an unspecified number of whom raped her in a hotel room.

Ten days later, she signed a retraction – which her lawyers say was written under duress – and is now on trial for causing public mischief in a court in the nearby town of Paralimni.

If convicted, she faces up to a year in prison and a fine of €1,700 (£1,500).

She denies the charge.

She sent frantic messages to friends and family in between being interrogated by officers in a police station.

She had to hide her mobile phone under a table and send the messages covertly.

“I told my friend I was scared for my life,” the teenager, wearing black trousers and a black top, told the court.

She said she felt alone, frightened and bewildered during the questioning, which lasted until 2am.

Ayia Napa is a magnet for younger tourists attracted by its party reputationCredit:
AMIR MAKAR/AFP/Getty Images

“It was really in your face,” said the young woman, who cannot be named. “I was crying and I didn’t understand what was going on. An officer kept asking me to say that there wasn’t a rape. They became very aggressive.

“I said I did not make it up, I have been raped. I said I want to talk to my mum, but he said ‘no’.”

Her repeated requests to call a lawyer were turned down, she told the court. “I said I know my rights and I know I have a right to a lawyer. The police officer said: ‘Maybe that’s what happens in the UK, but not in Cyprus.’”

Officers threatened to arrest her friends unless she signed the retraction, she said.

In the end she did sign the statement, in which she wrote that on the night of the alleged rape she was “quite drunk”.

Defence lawyers said it was written in poor English, with grammatical and spelling errors, suggesting it had been dictated to the teenager by investigating officers.

“I was messaging my friends, saying the police officer had forced me to sign a false statement. I was really scared. I didn’t think I’d leave the police station unless I signed the statement.”

She sent a message to her mother, asking her to call the British High Commission in Nicosia and British police “as soon as possible”.

In a Snapchat message to a friend, she wrote: “It’s all going tits up, it’s crazy. I have no idea what is happening.”

Police told her they had obtained video of her having sex with at least one of the Israelis.

The footage was taken from one of the Israelis’ mobile phones, which were confiscated after the alleged attack.

Twelve Israeli tourists were remanded in custody over the alleged rape in JulyCredit:
AFP/Getty Images

“They said they had videos from the night, showing me having consensual group sex. I stood up, I said: ‘This can’t be true.’ I asked to see the videos. (The officer) said that was not possible but that he had studied them and he was said it was very clear there was no rape.”

Michael Polak, a British lawyer who is part of the young woman’s legal team, said: “All these messages clearly show the pressure that was being placed on her on all different fronts.”

The teenager’s mother told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s great that her side of the story is finally being heard.”

But Cypriot police maintain that the British woman concocted the story of the gang rape when they revealed to her on the night of the questioning that some of the Israelis had filmed her having consensual sex with one of their friends.

“She felt embarrassed and exposed because she had been recorded on video,” said Detective Sergeant Marios Christou, who questioned her that night.

He told the court that he began to have “serious suspicions” that her claim of a gang rape was not true.

He pressed the British girl on why she might have made up the gang rape account, to which she reportedly said: “Because they were videoing me. I felt embarrassed and insulted.”

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.

On the opening day of the trial earlier this month, the court heard evidence that the Israeli men had boasted that night that they were going to have “an orgy” with the teenager.

The Israelis bragged that they were all going to “f—k” the British woman in what a witness described as “a loud and aggressive way.”

The teenager is on bail but had to surrender her passport and has to report to a police station each week in Nicosia, the island’s capital.

She spent more than a month in prison, sharing a cell with nine other women before being released in August.

A group of 11 civil society organisations has appealed to Cyprus’ attorney-general to suspend the case.

The groups, including an association for the prevention of domestic violence and the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, have said the trial should be called off and the Briton allowed to return home.

They want an investigation into whether police mishandled the case and scrutiny of how sexual assault offences are treated in Cyprus.

The teenager’s family have set up a crowdfunding page to ask for money for her legal fees and have so far raised £36,000 out of a target of £50,000.