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Belfast artist in yacht arrest drama in Italy makes pleas for help

By Gillian Halliday

A Northern Ireland artist arrested in Italy for allegedly attempting to steal a €150,000 luxury yacht has pleaded for help via social media.

Larissa Watson, an award-winning painter, has been ordered to appear in court in Genoa next month following her dramatic arrest in the exclusive coastal resort of Portofino last Monday.

The 50-year-old, who opened a boutique in Belfast's Commercial Court under her own fashion and lifestyle brand Goddess and Swift four years ago, was arrested after allegedly climbing aboard a Sangermani day cruiser and - having located its keys - attempted to sail it out of the port.

A suspicious harbour worker, however, spotted the acclaimed designer and climbed on board the yacht, steering it back to its mooring before alerting the port authority and the local Carabinieri paramilitary police, who placed her under arrest, it has been said.

The vessel is owned by a local boat rental company.

The whereabouts of the mother-of-four have been unknown since the story broke - with her alleged exploits prompting Italian media to dub her 'The Portofino Pirate' and compare her "double life" to a film plot.

Now a message on Facebook, apparently written by Mrs Watson, has appeared with her photograph in a post under her fashion brand's social media page.

It reads: "Could do with press agent and lawyer, as crazy person hacking my life; please PM me for location as I have no phone at present." The previous post, which appeared on April 10, appeared to suggest that Mrs Watson had possessions such as her phone, passport and credit cards stolen while in Italy.

That same day Mrs Watson appeared to have only arrived in the Italian capital, saying in another post: "Hi there. I'm in Rome!"

Other posts show images of her travels as well as pictures of the interior of her boutique.

Believed to have been in Italy since February, Mrs Watson has also been reported to Italian authorities for what is claimed to be a string of unpaid hotel and restaurant bills.

She allegedly left an unpaid hotel bill in Milan, fled a restaurant without paying in Ventimiglia on Italy's border with France, and ran off from a hotel in Reggio Calabria in the far south of the country. On at least two occasions police were called.

In another incident, the Ulster University graduate reportedly went to a beauty salon in Santa Margherita Ligure, close to Portofino, and then allegedly refused to pay her bill of €150. Police were called and she was charged with fraud.

The Ulster University graduate, who achieved a Masters in fine art in 2004, has exhibited extensively in the UK, America, Japan and Europe, with her award-winning art pieces drawing much attention.

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