UK fitness trainer suspected to be tourist who carved names into Rome's Colosseum

Screenshots of man who defaced the Colosseum
Photo credit: Ryan Lutz / Screengrabs

A tourist who carved names into the walls of Rome's ancient amphitheatre, the Colosseum, is believed to be a fitness trainer from the UK, it's been alleged. 

Ivan Dimitrov, a 27-year-old fitness instructor and delivery driver, has been accused of using a set of keys to carve 'Ivan + Hayley 23' - the latter being the name of his girlfriend, 33-year-old Hayley Bracey - into the historical monument, in full view of other visitors.  

The act was captured on film by a fellow tourist, with the footage emerging on social media earlier this week to widespread outrage.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Colosseum is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions. The largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, it remains the largest standing amphitheatre in the world, with its construction completed in 80 AD. It could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators throughout its history, and was used for gladiatorial contests, entertainment and public spectacles, including animal hunts, executions, reenactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Roman mythology.

According to reports, Dimitrov is originally from Bulgaria but resides in the UK city of Bristol with Bracey. 

This week comments alleging that Dimitrov was the perpetrator of the defacement began appearing on his Facebook page, Ivan Fitness and Coaching, with several people calling out the trainer for his vandalism of the ancient building.

The couple are reportedly vacationing elsewhere in Europe, with Italian authorities attempting to locate them. 

An officer of the Carabinieri - the national gendarmerie of Italy who primarily carry out domestic and foreign policing duties - told The Telegraph Bracey was "not part of the investigation". 

"It is just the man who is accused of scratching his name into the Colosseum," he is quoted as saying. "We will find them through the normal channels of international police cooperation and there will be a trial."

‌If convicted, Dimitrov faces a fine of up to €15,000 (NZ$26,856) and a prison sentence of up to five years.

‌In an official statement, the Carabinieri said they had identified the suspect "through traditional investigations and photographic comparisons of the person accused of etching their name and that of his girlfriend on the walls of the Colosseum", adding they were "a couple who are resident in England [sic]".

Footage of the defacement was captured by American tourist Ryan Lutz, who can be heard saying in the background, ‌"Are you f***ing serious, man? That is f***ed up, man" as the names were etched into the brick. 

‌The video, which was captioned, "Asshole tourist carves name in Colosseum in Rome", prompted widespread outrage across social media as viewers called for his arrest. 

"I am grateful to the Carabinieri for having swiftly identified the person who is alleged to be responsible for this act, uncivilised as it was absurd, which was committed at the Colosseum," Gennaro Sangiuliano, Italy's culture minister, said on Thursday (local time).‌

‌"It was a gesture that offended everyone in the world who appreciates the value of archaeology, history and monuments. I hope that the justice system will now run its course and rigorously apply the law."

‌He said the ministry will apply to be a plaintiff when the case comes to a trial, adding that the government is considering implementing new legislation that would toughen penalties for those found guilty of damaging Italy's historic sites.