A British teen who recanted a claim she was gang raped on Cyprus by a gang of Israeli young men said she was forced into the retraction by coercive police interrogation and that the attack was planned, as her lawyers appeal.
The 19-year-old, who has not been named, received a four-month suspended sentence and allowed to leave the island where she was held from July, 2019 until her trial ended in January amid international attention.
Supported by groups who said they believed her original story, that she was raped, she told the British Daily Mail of her ordeal, which she claimed included being pressured into changing her story while being questioned for hours without a lawyer.
“‘It’s late and I’ve got a family to go home to,’” she said one police official told her. “‘You’re going to be locked up if you don’t sign this retraction statement.’”
She gave the newspaper a detailed account of what she said happened, saying she met the Israelis, aged 15-21, a few days before the alleged rape when she was having drinks with other young women and the group, which then was about 20, approached them.
“They were drinking designer vodka, clearly trying to impress us,” the woman told the Mail of the events at the resort of Ayia Napa where she said one of them, nicknamed Sam, made a pass and she admitted being interested in having what she called a “holiday fling.”
“On the first day of our holiday romance he was confessing his love for me, telling all his friends how he wanted to marry me and asking me to move to Israel. I wondered if it was Israeli culture to be like that, but it was odd,” she said.
She said they were intimate several more times but she became anxious because his friends were lurking outside and wanted to get into the room where they were. “Looking back, it’s quite obvious I wasn’t in control of the situation; that it was spinning off in the wrong direction,” she said.
She said the rape happened on the day Sam and his friends were to fly back to Israel. “It was definitely pre-meditated,” she told the Mail.
She said as she and Sam were kissing in his room a group of his friends barged in, shouting and jeering and she tried to cross her legs to protect herself.
“Sam was kneeling on my chest and he began to rape me orally, so I could hardly breathe. My arms were flailing. I was trying desperately to get away. Then Sam got annoyed. He grabbed my left knee and pinned it down so I was accessible.
“I couldn’t see what was happening. Sam was in the way. Then other lads got hold of my ankles and they took turns to rape me. And then I managed to pull myself out. I scrabbled across the floor, pulled on my shorts and grabbed my bag.”
She said she fled, hitting her head while running away and went to a friend and told her what had happened. “I don’t think I told her explicitly what had happened. I just said, ‘They’ve all done it to me,” she said.
She said she went to the police that night and had to wait until the morning before her statement was taken and not seen by a doctor until 3 a.m.
“I had finger-mark bruising all over my legs and a terrible throat infection. My neck and lymph nodes were swollen. My eyes were bruised,” she said.
After a police complaint was filed, Cyprus police arrested 12 Israelis suspected of involvement in the alleged rape. The woman’s mom flew in from Britain to support her.
She said it was nine days later that a police officer who took her initial statement asked to meet her to clarify some details and that she was whisked away to another police station and put in a room where she was grilled intensely and incessantly.
“They started to question me, rapid-fire questions, and they told me they’d seen a video showing me having consensual group sex, that I’d been lying about the rape,” as earlier reports said she had agreed to the encounter but changed her mind when she saw it was being taped.
She said the interrogation continued for eight hours in a dark, locked wing of the police station and that she refused to change her story until she said she was threatened with arrest otherwise.
SORRY OVER RETRACTION
“One of the male officers started getting really annoyed. He said, ‘It’s late and I’ve got a family to go home to. You’re going to be locked up if you don’t sign this retraction statement.’
“I felt trapped. It was surreal. You can only understand if you’ve been interrogated relentlessly for hours,” she said, explaining her decision to sign a “concocted” statement.
“He’d won. At the same time I knew I’d done something totally wrong. I thought, ‘Why on earth did I sign that confession?’”
“And at that point everything started unraveling. They handed me a warrant for my arrest and told me I’d been charged with public mischief — falsifying an offense that hadn’t happened. I was dumbstruck.”
The British Foreign Office has said it was “seriously concerned about the fair-trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case.”
After their release without charge, the accused Israelis were applauded when they returned, some supporters suggesting it was a male right of passage for them and as they said she wanted it. They were not called as trial witnesses.