A gym instructor from Bristol who was filmed carving his initials into the 2,000-year-old Colosseum has written a letter of apology, claiming he ‘didn’t know it was an old monument’.
Shameless Ivan Dimitrov, 27, was caught red-handed as he scratched his name and that of his girlfriend Hayley Bracey, 33, into a wall at the famous tourist site.
The couple were on the first leg of a three-week European holiday while their house was being renovated, and he was filmed by an outraged American tourist who posted footage online that went viral.
In what officials have described as a ‘surreal’ letter to the mayor of Rome, police and the authorities at the Colosseum, Dimitrov has now apologised for what he did, revealing his ignorance in the process.
He wrote: ‘Aware of the seriousness of the committed act, with these lines, I wish to address my most heartfelt and honest apologies to the Italians and to the whole world for the damage caused to an asset which, in fact, is the heritage of all humanity.
Ivan Dimitrov (pictured), 27, said he only learned of the ‘antiquity’ of the Colosseum after he was caught red-handed carving his and his girlfriend’s names into the monument’s wall
Gym instructor Ivan Dimitrov, 27, and his girlfriend Hayley Bracey, 33
‘I admit with profound embarrassment that only after what regretfully happened did I learn of the antiquity of the monument.
‘The council with dedication, care and sacrifice guards the inestimable historical and artistic value of the Colosseum.’
But one official at Rome city council said: ‘What nonsense and what a surreal letter. What level of education does this man have not to know the significance of the Colosseum?
‘It’s just an attempt to pacify – and if he was so concerned why take almost two weeks to write? Why didn’t he apologise sooner? He must have known what he did as it was all over the world’s media.
‘We intend to pursue this through the judicial system along with the authorities at the Colosseum and hope to see an appropriate punishment when it comes to court.’
He faces a possible fine of up to 15,000 euros and could be jailed for between two and five years when the case comes to court, probably next year. However, he will not be extradited and does not have to attend.
Rome vandal Ivan Dimitrov poses with his girlfriend Hayley Bracey in a gym
A still image from footage of him desecrating the Colosseum. He faces a possible fine of up to 15,000 euros and could be jailed for between two and five years when the case comes to court
His lawyer Alessandro Maria Tirelli said: ‘I suggested he wrote to the authorities to express his sincere regret for what he did and offer his apologies.
‘He thought he could get away with what he did in Italy, even knowing full well that if caught in England where he lives he would have been severely punished.
‘On the basis of the letter and the words within it we hope to reach a satisfactory conclusion with the Rome prosecutor which will limit the fine and punishment.’
Bulgarian born Dimitrov and his sports nutritionist girlfriend are thought to be back in Bristol.
A passer-by filmed the tourist as he carved the names into the stone walls of the 1,937-year-old building using a set of keys.
Dimitrov can be seen scratching ‘Ivan + Hayley 23’ into one of the bricks on June 23.
The man can be seen scratching ‘Ivan + Hayley 23’ into one of the bricks on June 23
The video was shared on Reddit with the caption: ‘A******e tourist carves name in Colosseum in Rome’.
In the video, the English-speaking man filming the footage says: ‘Are you serious, man? That is f***ed up, man. Stupid a******e.’
Reddit users called on the poster to send the video to police so the vandal could be arrested.
In a statement at the time, Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said: ‘I consider it very serious, unworthy and a sign of great incivility that a tourist defaces one of the most famous places in the world, a historical heritage such as the Colosseum, to engrave the name of his fiancée.
‘I hope that whoever made this gesture at the Flavian Amphitheatre will be identified and sanctioned according to our laws.’
Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum, told MailOnline at the time: ‘The Carabinieri police are now tracking down this man and we will see if we can get him.
‘When you get uneducated people at the Colosseum this kind of hooliganism happens and I hope there are no copycats.’
A spokesperson for the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Rome added: ‘We have been informed of this incident and are looking to identity the culprit and when he is caught, he will be punished.’
This is not the first time tourists have been fined for vandalising what is believed to be the world’s largest amphitheatre.
In 2020, an Irish tourist was arrested for allegedly carving his initials into the Colosseum.
The Carabinieri said a 32-year-old man was caught by the Colosseum’s private security and was immediately reported to officers.
The man’s two initials, about 2in high, were said to have been carved with a metal point on a pillar of the first floor in September 2020.
The unnamed man was accused of damaging a historical and artistic landmark.
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined £17,000 for carving the letter ‘K’ into the brickwork
In January 2017, the Colosseum was vandalised with black spray paint
Fines start at £1,750, while a custodial sentence could be as long as one year in prison.
Archaeologist Federica Rinaldi, who is responsible for the ancient Roman amphitheater, said people who carve their initials into the monument want to ‘appropriate’ it.
She added: ‘The Colosseum, like any monument that represents the history of all of us, must be preserved and handed over to future generations.’
The Colosseum, which is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is a World Heritage Site, along with 54 other Italian sites that comprise the city’s historic centre.
In January 2017, the Colosseum was vandalised with black spray paint. The name ‘Balto’ and the word ‘Morte’ (death) were sprayed onto the pillar overnight.
In 2015, two American tourists were arrested for carving initials into the Colosseum. Before they were spotted, the women, 21 and 25, were able to carve a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum
Two Brazilian men who attempted to climb over a gate into the Colosseum on the same day were apprehended by the authorities when they fell 13ft, with one fracturing his hip bone.
CCTV was studied to see if they were responsible for the the graffiti.
Francesco Prosperetti, special superintendent for the Colosseum, said: ‘We worry that this could become a game and people could start competing over it.’
In 2015, two American tourists were arrested for carving initials into the Colosseum.
Before they were spotted, the women, 21 and 25, were able to carve a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum.
After carving the 8in-high letters, the women posed together for a selfie.
The women, just two of six million tourists that flock to the Colosseum every year, used a coin to engrave the letters, La Stampa reported.
They are said to have broken away from their tour group – but other tourists saw what had happened and alerted security.
Police charged the women with ‘aggravated damage on building of historical and artistic interest’, according to La Repubblica.
After they were caught, the women apologised to Piazza Dante police and Captain Lorenzo Iacobone.
They said: ‘We apologise for what we did. We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious. We’ll remember for a lifetime.’
According to The Guardian, the section damaged dates back to the 1800s – a key period of restoration.
A spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome is quoted as saying: ‘It’s not an original wall but it’s nevertheless antique.’
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined £17,000 for carving the letter ‘K’ into a section of brickwork.
Construction on the Colosseum began sometime between 70 and 72CE and it seated around 50,000 spectators.
They came to watch gladiators in combat with each other and dangerous animals, including lions.
Other tourists have repeatedly caused chaos in Rome, like in 2018 when two British tourists stripped and posed for photos in a fountain at one of Rome’s most famous monuments
One of the Britons can be seen removing his underwear as the two men frolicked in the water at the foot of Altare della Patria in the Italian capital
Other tourists have caused chaos in Rome, like in 2018 when two British tourists stripped and posed for photos in a fountain at one of Rome‘s most famous monuments.
One of the Britons can be seen removing his underwear as the two men frolicked in the water at the foot of Altare della Patria in the Italian capital.
Others filmed as the men laughed and jokingly flexed their muscles in front of bemused tourists.
Their antics were captured on camera by a tour guide at the landmark – a monument to war dead that was originally built in honour of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the unified Italy.
In the footage, two men – reported as being British by local media – are seen posing for photos in the fountain wearing only their briefs.
Several people position themselves by the wall, dipping their feet into the water and taking photos.
One of the men then pulls his underwear down and hides his genitals between his legs to pose naked for photos. Numerous visitors walk past the Britons as they continued to misbehave.
The footage caused outrage on social media. One Italian wrote online: ‘English sons of b*****s, always playing up and attention-seeking.’
Local media said at the time that this was yet another assault on Italy’s heritage.