“Jolly”: prosecutor casts doubts on witness

Genoa - Statements by second deck officer Ugo Fedele, regarding the movements of one of the tug boats from one side to the other of the ro-ro “Jolly Nero” just before the moment of impact with Genoa’s port control tower, were deemed “untruthful” by prosecutor Walter Cotugno

Genoa - Statements by second deck officer Ugo Fedele, regarding the movements of one of the tug boats from one side to the other of the ro-ro “Jolly Nero” just before the moment of impact with Genoa’s port control tower, were deemed “untruthful” by prosecutor Walter Cotugno, who has requested access to the hearing’s transcripts in order to open an investigation for perjury. It all took place during the trial hearing on the tragic incident of 7 May, 2013, when the Ignazio Messina-owned cargo ship “Jolly Nero” hit and destroyed the port of Genoa’s control tower killing nine people and injuring four. Those accused are the captain of the “Jolly Nero” and five others.

The prosecutor objected to the defence witness’ testimony for not having referred during earlier questioning following the incident that one of the assisting tugs had moved from left to starboard just prior to impact. Fedele explained that he began calling out distances while he was in the ship’s stern when the ship was about 150 metres from the tower, and that he did not notice the tug’s position. Pressed by the prosecutor he then said he had “seen it pass from the left side to the right one, just 25 metres away from the tower.”

The prosecution pointed out that he hadn’t divulged the fact that the tug would “have towed in the wrong direction”, the witness replied that what he had said was, “I saw it go but not that it was pulling in the wrong direction.” At that point Turin-based lawyer, Mr. Mittone, working on behalf of Ignazio Messina & Co, and who had called for the second deck officer’s testimony, intervened saying that the second officer had mentioned it to him earlier in the investigations, presenting transcripts of the defence’s investigation and of the insurance claim process.

Following the reading of the records, the prosecutor protested, he asked, “in a statement dated May 2013 to the insurance people he said that the tug had moved from left to right when they were 150 metres away from the tower and now says that the change of sides occurred 25 metres away?” “My mind is confused,” said Fedele. “Today I remembered this move. Surely the distance must have been greater if that’s what I reported. I don’t remember at how many metres away the change in position occurred.” Just prior to Mr. Fedele, admiral Capurso Damiano had given evidence at the hearing, who, aided by a few others, had carried out the investigation summary phase of the enquiry. Capurso pointed out that, in cases where the ship’s engines fail to start, dropping the anchors is the standard procedure. He then reiterated that it is the captain who’s in charge of the manoeuvre, and that the pilot’s role is to give suggestions, extending also to the number of tugs to be employed.

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