The British citizen who has accused Canadian-born screenwriter and director Paul Haggis of raping her in Italy told Italian police she was sexually assaulted twice by Haggis over several days, after joining him in the southern tourist town of Ostuni, where Haggis was headlining a film festival.
“The woman was subjected twice to non-consensual sex; she wasn’t raped for days on end,” as some media have reported, said Insp. Rita Sverdigliozzi, who heads up the unit of the Brindisi state police investigating the alleged crime.
“She admired him and came to Ostuni hoping she could work with him.”
Haggis was arrested Sunday on charges of sexual assault and grievous bodily harm. He is currently under house arrest in Ostuni, Italy.
Sverdigliozzi confirmed the woman, 29, and Haggis, 69, met in the spring.
Italian media have reported details from a leaked memo that Haggis wrote up for his lawyer, where he says the two met at the Monaco International Film Festival. After the woman took a selfie with Haggis, he allegedly contacted her over social media.
The woman told police she left a love note “for a reason,” in the bed-and-breakfast room the two shared for several days.
According to a statement from prosecutors, Haggis dropped the woman off at the airport in Brindisi, Italy, the closest city to Ostuni, in the heel-shaped region of Puglia, early in the morning of June 15. There, airline workers found her wandering around in what the prosecutors describe as a “precarious psychological and physical condition” and police were alerted.
After reporting the alleged assault to the police, the woman stayed in a shelter for victims of sexual abuse in Puglia, which she left on Wednesday, police said.
Authorities have also said it could take weeks before a trial begins.
Woman to recount alleged assault to judge
The woman is set to appear next week to recount the alleged assault in front of a judge in Brindisi.
Investigators are still collecting evidence ahead of a preliminary hearing, when a judge will decide whether to proceed with a trial and whether to release Haggis from house arrest — and, if so, under what conditions.
Vilma Gilli, the judge overseeing preliminary investigations, ruled Wednesday to keep the director under house arrest, where he is only allowed to see family members and his lawyers.
Haggis is currently staying in a luxury farmhouse outside Ostuni, where he moved after the arrival of his adult children, who were scheduled to lead master classes at the Allora Film Festival that started this week.
The judge based her decision on the version of events recounted by the victim, which the judge said demonstrated an “absolute inability to control [Haggis’s] instincts and to desist from inclinations of prevarication and dominance,” Italian media reported.
Accusations in the US
The judge also cited a pending civil case involving a rape accusation against Haggis in New York as helping to inform her decision. Four women in the US have accused Haggis of sexual assault — claims he has denied.
The Oscar-winning screenwriter and director of Crashwho also co-wrote Royal Casino and Quantum of Solaceappeared before Gilli on Wednesday in Brindisi, Italy, where, with the help of a translator, he told the judge his version of events.
Michele Laforgia, Haggis’s Italian lawyer, said his client is innocent and the sexual relations between Haggis and the woman were consensual.
“We have also made it clear that there are no injuries or signs of violence, which has been alleged by the prosecution,” Laforgia told reporters after the hearing.