A mother-of-four Larissa Watson has been accused of leaving behind her successful art career in Britain to embark on a four-month crime spree across t
A mother-of-four Larissa Watson has been accused of leaving behind her successful art career in Britain to embark on a four-month crime spree across the Italian Riviera.
Larissa Watson, 50, reportedly climbed aboard an unmanned £130,000 motor launch in Portofino before speeding off from the harbour.
The successful artist, who served as a creative director at a interior design firm, is said to have expectantly left behind her family life in Belfast and headed for Italy in February.
During a four-month spell, she has been accused by Italian authorities of enjoying a lavish lifestyle at the expense of luxury resorts and restaurants, failing to pay her bills before disappearing from sight.
Mrs Watson, the daughter of a criminologist, was finally arrested by police after a marina worker spotted her in the boat and leapt aboard, apprehending her.
It is just one of a series of crimes attributed to the former lecturer, who boasted of enjoying fine dining and culture on social media as her family back home wandered where she was.
Relatives reported her missing in May, by which time she had already been accused of sleeping in a hotel room without paying, The Times reported.
Mrs Watson, whose current whereabouts are unknown, could face jail time is she fails return to court to face fraud charges.
Captain Simone Clemente, of the Italian military police, said: ‘She was brought back to the quay were police were waiting.
‘Initially she refused to get off but soon surrendered,’ he added.
Born in Canterbury and raised in Belfast, Ms Watson’s life appears to have taken a bizarre twist earlier this year when she moved to Italy.
On Mother’s Day in March, she posted a message of Facebook to say that she was missing her four children.
While her social media pages show her indulging in sumptuous dinners, she was allegedly living on the wrong side of the law, conning hotels and restaurants.
It was claimed she managed to sneak into a room and stay for free one night and on another occasion booked into a hotel in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy and was arrested for allegedly trying to leave without paying.
‘One night she wandered into a hotel in La Spezia, pretended to be a guest and got a key, then fled the next day after she was found sleeping in a room,’ added Captain Clemente.
‘We googled her and thought she was carrying out some kind of artistic experiment. We then learnt her family had reported her missing in May.
‘After her arrest she told the British embassy she did not want to go home and we suspect she has had some kind of psychiatric problem. Now we hope her family and friends will come to Italy.
‘We can solve crimes but there is also the human element.’
During her time in Italy, Mrs Watson posted a number of status updates on her Facebook profile, including one in March in which she complained about the quality of margaritas and of being kicked out of a party in Bologna.
Two days before the boat incident she is said to have ordered a beauty treatment in the Ligurian resort of Santa Margherita.
She was arrested and cautioned for allegedly not paying the 100-euro bill.
‘When she was arrested she had no cards, no money and a photocopy of her passport,’ said Captain Clemente.
‘She had a change of clothes in a backpack and might have been sleeping rough. That said, she was well turned out, although that’s because she had been to the beauty parlour.’
He added: ‘Nothing like this has happened before in Portofino.’
Police said a search through Mrs Watson’s Facebook and Instagram revealed she had undertaken navigation courses and was familiar with how to handle boats.
Italian newspaper La Rivieria dubbed Mrs Watson ‘the Portofino pirate’.
Her social media accounts reveal that in March she posted what seemed to be an old picture of herself with a trophy and wearing a blue dress.
The caption read: ‘Happy times when I had decent clothes to wear, a great car to drive, a home and a clean, comfortable bed every night – offshore racing – winning in style!’
In another post she claimed to have been ejected from a Bologna party attended by Jamie Oliver due to the actions of ‘an officious little girl’.
Mrs Watson was also charged with fraud after allegedly refusing to pay a €150 bill at a beauty salon in the town of Santa Margherita Ligure.
Her current whereabouts are unknown but she faces an international warrant if she fails to attend next month’s scheduled court appearance.
The artist moved to Belfast as a child before attending the University of Ulster’s School of Art and Design. She has exhibited her work in Britain, the United States, Europe and Japan.
Mrs Watson will be summoned to court next month and could be jailed for three years if the case goes to trial.
She could not be reached for comment last night.