Domnica Cemortan, 25, from Chisinau, Moldova, has become a central figure in the investigation, which is trying to establish why the captain, Francesco Schettino, took the 114,500-tonne cruise liner so close to the jagged shoreline.
Up to 32 people died after the ship listed first one way and then another before capsizing on a rocky ledge further up the coast, reports Guardian.
Divers found the clothing, as well as a beauty case, when they searched the private cabin of Capt Francisco Schettino, 52, who faces charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter, according to La Repubblica newspaper.
Later it was confirmed that the case contained dresses and underwear belonging to Domnica and a beauty case with her creams and other make up was also recovered from married Schettino’s cabin – whose wife Fabiola last week announced she was standing by her husband.
Schettino, who is under house arrest, is being formally investigated on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a vessel under his command.
According to The Telegraph, Miss Cemortan was interviewed for nearly six hours on Wednesday by prosecutors in a police station in Grosseto.
“I love him, and it’s not right to destroy his reputation,” Ms Cemortan allegedly told investigators. “Everyone is hammering him.”
Cemortan, a former dancer, also appeared to contradict statements by members of the crew that she had been invited on to the bridge by Schettino on the night of 13 January to watch him execute a sail-past in honour of a retired liner captain.
She has denied being his lover. Miss Cemortan was spotted by several passengers in ‘high spirits’ with Schettino in the ship’s Club Concordia restaurant 30 minutes before disaster struck and was seen leaving with him and heading to the bridge, Daily Mail reports.
Ms Cemortan confirmed to prosecutors that the captain had invited her up onto the bridge as his guest, to see the ship perform a ‘salute’ of the island of Giglio.
“I was on the bridge because I was in love with the captain. I found him charming and fascinating. I love him,” she said. “I was on the bridge as his guest. It’s not right that his image is being destroyed.”
The captain misjudged the manoeuvre, sailing to within 150 yards of the shore and smashing into a rocky shoal, ripping a huge gash in the hull.
He then grounded the 950ft-long vessel on a different part of Giglio’s coast and belatedly ordered the evacuation of its 4,200 passengers and crew.
Francesco Verusio, the chief prosecutor in the case, said Ms Cemortan’s testimony would be key in establishing exactly what happened on the bridge that night and whether the captain was distracted – as claimed by some of his officers.
“There are many witnesses and each one will offer their point of view,” Mr Verusio said. “We’re comparing all the different versions to see how they fit together.” Electronic data recovered from the ship’s black box would also be vital, he said.
The 114,000 ton Concordia was packed with more than 4,000 passengers and crew when it hit rocks off the island of Giglio on January 13 – just two hours after it had left the Italian port of Civitavecchia on a week-long cruise.
The death toll stands at 17, with 15 people still missing, presumed dead. Bad weather which is sweeping all of Europe has again hampered the search for the missing and has again delayed the start of the operation to siphon off 500,000 gallons of heavy duty diesel in the Concordia’s fuel tanks.
Italian emergency officials decided to end the search due to the danger posed to rescue workers. The family of the only U.S. couple missing in the disaster, Jerry and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, said they accepted the decision.
Seven Italian survivors from the ship have filed an official complaint with prosecutors, after they were turned away from lifeboats three times by crew members on the night of the tragedy.