An Italian teenager accused of raping a 17-year-old British girl on a cruise ship has been freed on a legal technicality because the alleged attack took place in international waters.
The suspect, aged 18, was arrested after she told Spanish police he forced her into his cabin on board the MSC Divina as it sailed through the Mediterranean on Thursday.
He was brought before a court in Valencia but the judge ruled that no further action could be taken, according to regional newspaper Levante-EMV.
As a result of a change to the law in 2009, international crimes can only be prosecuted if they involve victims or suspects living in Spain. The alleged attacker is believed to live in Italy and the ship is registered in Panama.
The judge suggested that authorities in Britain, Italy or Panama take up the case.
It is believed the British teenager continued on the cruise towards Italy with her family after being examined at La Fe Hospital in Valencia.
DNA samples were taken from the cabin and the teenager’s clothes for analysis at the Institute of Forensic Medicine.
The ship had already left by the time the suspect was released.
A spokesman for MSC Cruises said: “As there is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to provide any additional comment on this matter.
“Additionally, this is a matter that relates to guests who were travelling on board one of our ships.
“Within this context, our company is fully cooperating with the authorities overseeing this investigation, but is not itself in any way subject to it.”
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The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was providing assistance to the victim and her family.
“Our consular staff are providing support and assistance to a British woman and her family following an incident on board a cruise ship,” said a spokesperson.