'Countess' refuses to reveal background

PUBLISHED: 08:56 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:44 03 July 2010

A WOMAN claiming to be a countess refused to tell a judge on Friday where her title originates from as she stood trial for being responsible for a health scare at a Yarmouth hotel she owned.

A WOMAN claiming to be a countess refused to tell a judge on Friday where her title originates from as she stood trial for being responsible for a health scare at a Yarmouth hotel she owned.

Appearing as Countess Athanasia Constantine at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court, the 39-year said she had sworn an oath that she could not divulge the nature of her title.

The refusal to reveal the title details emerged on the second day of Constantine's trial for breaching 17 food and hygiene regulations at the Fairholme Hotel in January 2007.

During a routine inspection by Yarmouth Borough Council environmental health officers found a pet rabbit living in the filthy kitchen and that poorly trained staff smoked in the cooking area.

Because of imminent risk to the public the squalid kitchens were shut down.

The authenticity and origin of Constantine's title was strongly called into question as she gave evidence on Friday.

Colm Lyons, prosecuting for the council, told district judge Philip Browning that there was no record of a Countess Constantine in Britain, Greece and Russia - the only countries to have such a title.

When asked where her title comes from, Constantine replied: “I don't want to talk about my family history. It is totally irrelevant.

“I will not answer that. I am sorry judge, I will refuse.

“I can't discuss my family background. I have sworn to it.”

Constantine, of Mill Hill, London, denied she was responsible for the shocking state of the kitchen and allowing the white rabbit to roam loose as she had leased the hotel to Costa Pantazis in September 2006 and he was in charge.

She said: “The nature of the agreement was for Mr Costa Pantazis to lease the building for a whole year. The whole of the property.

“I gave him the key after I received the deposit and he took over.

“The property belongs to me. I entrusted it to someone else.”

But the court heard that Constantine had only drafted the tenancy agreement after the inspection to cover her tracks.

Mr Lyons said the tenancy agreement had been downloaded from the internet and was not a legally binding document.

There were also discrepancies in utility bills over who was paying bills for the hotel.

Constantine also failed to record any of the weekly rent payments in cash from Mr Pantazis.

Mr Lyons said: “You began to try and create an elaborate scheme to distance yourself from the Fairholme Hotel.”

Constantine denied making up documents and said she had informed the borough council that Mr Pantazis was responsible for the Princes Road building. However she admitted she was still registered as its licensee and food business operator in January 2007.

The only other details revealed about Constantine yesterday were that she had family in Yarmouth, had been a property developer for about seven years, owned several properties in the resort and that the Fairholme Hotel was part of her Gladstone Housing Group.

On Friday afternoon district judge Browning adjourned Constantine's trial to January 20 at Norwich Magistrates' Court.

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