LONDON — A British woman convicted of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has given her version of events, describing how a group of Israelis allegedly pinned her down on a hotel bed and assaulted her, The Sun newspaper reported Monday.
The 19-year-old cannot be named while she appeals her conviction in Cyprus’s Supreme Court. She was convicted of causing “public mischief,” but her team called the judgment “unfair,” when it filed the appeal earlier this month.
In her first comments since being handed a suspended four-month jail term and returning to Britain this month, she stood by her claim that local police had forced her to sign a confession in which she admitted making up being gang-raped.
She described developing a “normal holiday romance” with an Israeli nicknamed Sam in the holiday resort of Ayia Napa in July. The night before he was due to leave, the pair went up to a “grotty” hotel room at around 2:45 a.m.
They started kissing, she said, and then “about five minutes later, I heard the sound of the room door opening and turned around.”
Twelve men “were lining up, excited, talking and shouting in Hebrew. I was trying to fight them off but I just couldn’t. They were like a pack of animals — a pack of wolves,” she said.
“He [Sam] grabbed me and threw me on the bed. Some of them grabbed my ankles, some held down my knees and they ripped my bodysuit.”
‘I was trying to cross my legs all the time and every time I did, Sam would get angry,” the woman said. “He grabbed one of my knees himself at one point. Then they took it in turns.”
“I don’t know how many of the 12 raped me,” she said. “You don’t count, you couldn’t count.”
The ordeal lasted for 20 minutes.
A group of Israeli teenagers were arrested and appeared in court, but 10 days after making a complaint of rape, the woman was interviewed again by police and signed a retraction.
“I knew straight away I’d done something really, really wrong by signing it,” she recalled to The Sun.
“I was panicking by now and I told a social worker in the police station what had happened. But she just said, ‘There’s nothing you can do now.'”
The woman was convicted by a Cypriot court on December 30 of lying about being gang-raped by the Israelis and then sentenced in January.
Famagusta District Court Judge Michalis Papathanasiou ruled the woman had not 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.
A linguistics expert witness who testified at the trial said that the grammar of her retraction did not appear to be that of a native English-speaker and was likely dictated to her.
The woman spent a month in a Cyprus prison. She was released on bail and stayed in Cyprus for the duration of her high-profile trial.
Speaking from Derbyshire, where she lives, the woman talked about the impact her experiences in Cyprus have had on her mental health, saying she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I lost 2.5 stone (16 kilograms, 35 pounds), in prison. I was really thin when I came out,” she said.
“They put me on drugs, on Xanax, even though I didn’t want to,” she said, referencing a mild tranquilizer. “Most prisoners were drugged, it seemed they thought that was easier. It gave me horribly vivid dreams, hallucination.”
The woman told The Sun that she now sleeps for up to 20 hours and developed others PTSD symptoms, including when she hears a foreign language spoken by men.
“The most I can manage is going to the gym with friends and spending time with my [dog]. I can’t think further ahead than that yet,” she said but added that she would like to go back to college.
The case received intense media attention in both Israel and the UK, with women’s rights activists, including many Israelis, protesting the tourist’s treatment by Cypriot authorities. In Britain, activists on social media called to boycott the island nation over authorities’ conduct in the case. Over 50 Israelis flew to Cyprus to stand by the British woman during her trial.
After their release without charge, the accused Israelis received a heroes’ welcome when they arrived back in Israel. The Israelis have not denied that they had sexual relations with the woman, but claim it was consensual. None was called as a witness in the case.