Costa Concordia captain Schettino sobs as verdict looms

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Media captionCapt Francesco Schettino said the media scrutiny made it "difficult to call the life I'm living a life"

The captain of the wrecked Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia broke into sobs as he made a final appeal to judges ahead of a verdict in his trial.

Capt Francesco Schettino said he had been made a scapegoat for the accident.

Thirty-two people died in January 2012 when the ship was steered too close to the island of Giglio and hit rocks.

The prosecution wants Capt Schettino jailed for 26 years for multiple manslaughter, but the captain denies all the charges against him.

Speaking on the last day of his trial, the skipper said his head had been "offered for sacrifice" in order to safeguard economic interests.

"I have spent the last three years in a media meat grinder," he said. "It is difficult to call what I have been living through a 'life'."

He added: "All the responsibility has been loaded on to me with no respect for the truth or for the memory of the victims."

Capt Schettino was unable to finish his statement, saying "enough" before slumping back into his seat.

Ripped open

The judges in the 19-month trial retired on Wednesday to consider a verdict.

Investigators have severely criticised Capt Schettino's handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290m-long vessel too close to shore when it struck rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

The trial, in the city of Grosseto, has heard how the ship was ripped open on the rocks and more than 4,000 passengers and crew were forced into a chaotic evacuation.

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Media captionA recording was released after the disaster in which the coastguard was heard ordering the captain to 'get back on board'

Capt Schettino has also been accused of compounding his crime by abandoning his vessel and saving himself while passengers were in danger - earning him the title "Captain Coward" in the Italian media.

'Collective failure'

Prosecutors have asked for Capt Schettino to be jailed on charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship with passengers and crew still on board.

Throughout the trial, his lawyers have argued that it was a collective failure and others should share the blame for the disaster.

He has spoken of "commercial reasons" for taking the liner so close to the coast in an attempt to please his passengers and those ashore.

He has rejected rumours that he had wanted to impress his lover, Domnica Cemortan, who was with him at the helm.

Disaster timeline

Image copyright Reuters
  • 13 Jan 2012: Costa Concordia runs aground
  • Jul 2013: Capt Schettino goes on trial for multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship
  • Jul 2013: Five crew jailed for manslaughter for up to two years and 10 months
  • Jul 2014: Costa Concordia refloated and towed to Genoa

Captain on trial

Salvaging the Costa Concordia

In the aftermath of the wreck the ship's operator, Costa Crociere (Costa Cruises), was allowed to make a plea bargain and was fined €1m (£740,000; $1.13m).

Some of the survivors argue that the firm still has questions to answer on issues such as the calibre of the ship's crew and its operating procedures.

Five senior crew members were convicted of manslaughter in July 2013.

Two officers, the helmsman, the head of cabin service and the head of the crisis team were given up to two years and 10 months in plea bargains.

Capt Schettino's request for a plea bargain was turned down.

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Media captionThis time-lapse footage shows the operation to right the Costa Concordia

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