A British tourist convicted in Cyprus of making a false rape accusation against several Israelis was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder when she retracted her claims, a psychologist who examined the defendant said.
Dr. Christine Tizzard, a chartered consultant psychologist called as a defense witness in the case, told The Guardian newspaper in a report Tuesday that the woman’s state of mind when she recanted the accusation was not properly taken into consideration during her trial.
Tizzard said that people suffering from PTSD can behave in unexpected ways in stressful situations.
“They will very frequently feel such terror and discomfort and they will quite literally go along with anything to get out of a situation that they find overwhelming,” she said.
“My experience certainly of the teenager was, when talking to her, that she could change quite quickly, particularly if she was triggered by something that resembled the original trauma,” she said.
The 19-year-old woman, who hasn’t been named, was found guilty on Monday on a charge of public mischief and is due to be sentenced on January 7. The charge carries a maximum of a year in prison and a fine of 1,700 euros ($1,907).
She insists that she was raped in a hotel room at a coastal resort town on July 17 and that she was forced to sign the retraction 10 days later under police questioning. The group of Israelis, who had been arrested, were all released and returned home.
“It was clear, and has been clear all along, that she’s suffering from severe, and I do mean severe, PTSD,” Tizzard said. “She’s in a dreadful state – we’ve been worried about her for several months and how she has deteriorated.”
Tizzard said the woman needs therapy to prevent “life-changing” damage.
“The salient point is that she was diagnosed with PTSD. That’s a standalone diagnosis,” she said. “It’s a valid diagnosis and it hasn’t really been fully represented. Aside the fact it hasn’t been fully represented, it means she’s been unable to get the treatment she so sorely needs and every day she’s not having treatment the worse it gets.”
Tizzard gave evidence during an earlier November court hearing. She first assessed the woman in September and then again about four weeks ago.
“I’m concerned that she needs robust and adequate therapy and very, very quickly or there’s a real concern that this is going to be life-changing and remain that way,” she said.
Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said Monday the defendant hadn’t told the truth and had tried to deceive the court with “evasive” statements in her testimony.
The judge said the woman had admitted to investigators that she made up the claims because she was “ashamed” after finding out that some of the Israelis had taken cellphone video of her having consensual sex. Police have reportedly claimed the content of the video contradicts the woman’s initial rape claims.
During the trial, defense lawyers had called the police investigation deficient and improper, with detectives making major lapses and omissions in their work while having a mistaken perception of the facts surrounding their client’s claim.
Her lawyers said they would appeal the conviction, citing the judge’s refusal to consider evidence that she had been raped.
The British government on Monday cast doubt over whether the teenager received a fair trial and said that it would raise the issue with Cypriot authorities.
Cyprus’s government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said the government doesn’t intervene or comment on pending court cases, saying it has “full confidence in the justice system and the courts,” which should be left unfettered to implement the law and deliver justice.