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Italian man accused of stalking Colin Firth’s wife denies claims

When his beautiful Italian wife said she was being targeted by a terrifying stalker, actor Colin Firth did what any decent husband would do and alerted the police.

Film producer and environmental consultant Livia Giuggioli alleges that 55-year-old Marco Brancaccia left her living in fear after threatening her via telephone calls and texts.

The Italian journalist is also accused of emailing photographs of Livia to 57-year-old Firth which prompted the actor to defend his wife’s honour by taking prompt legal action through the Italian courts.

But that was before an outraged Brancaccia himself stepped into the affray, publicly refuting claims that he was a stalker and, in effect, forcing 48-year-old Livia to admit this week that they had embarked on an affair in 2015.

Indeed, Brancaccia told the Mail exclusively yesterday of the ‘magic sparkle’ he shared with Livia during what he claims was a passionate 11-month affair.

Counter-claims: Journalist Marco Brancccia

He said their relationship began after a family party at the Firths’ home in Umbria, Northern Italy, in the summer of 2015 and that at the time Livia had wanted to divorce her famous Oscar-winning husband.

‘I fell in love completely with Livia. I felt she was the woman of my life. I loved her very much, very much,’ he said, adding that accusations of stalking are ‘rubbish’ and that the real story is that of ‘a famous couple trying to cover up her love affair’.

‘They totally freaked out that I would go public and tell everyone this story, so they filed a com-plaint against me for stalking,’ he claimed.

So what is the truth behind the tangled web of infidelity which has ensnared Firth, his wife and her former lover? Is Brancaccia — a highly-respected journalist based at the Italian international news agency ANSA — really a stalker? Or, as he claims, are the Firths dragging him through the courts in a bid to stop him telling all about his romance with Livia?

An investigation by the Mail certainly suggests there is more to this extraordinary story than meets the eye.

Livia and Brancaccia have known each other since she was a teenager. Brancaccia told the Mail that in the past he has even celebrated New Year with the Firths at their home in Umbria.

But I can also reveal that this is not the first time that Brancaccia has been taken to court by a former lover.

Nearly 20 years ago, the Italian was embroiled in protracted legal proceedings with an ex-partner who fled to her native Iceland with the couple’s young daughter amid claims of violence and threatening behaviour, which were denied.

When Livia and Brancaccia first met 30 years ago in Sperlonga, an Italian beach resort frequented by wealthy visitors, it’s unlikely that either of them could have imagined that their friendship would one day result in such a toxic and bitter showdown.

Brancaccia’s family has a summerhouse close to the resort’s silver-white beaches. He and Livia were introduced by mutual friends during a summer holiday in the Eighties.

At the time, Livia, the daughter of a wealthy engineer, was a beautiful and bright student at university in Rome. Brancaccia, who is seven years older than she is, was already working for a press agency in the Italian capital.

Speaking to the Mail from Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Italian refused to say whether the pair had become romantically involved at the start of their friendship. ‘Livia and I have been friends for maybe 30 years,’ he said. ‘I’ve known her on and off. Then she moved away. She married Colin.’

Firth met his future wife in Colombia in 1995 during filming of a BBC adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo. Livia was working as a production assistant on set during filming. At the time, Firth was an international heart-throb with millions of swooning female fans, thanks to his mean and moody portrayal of Mr Darcy in the BBC’s Pride And Prejudice.

He already had a son — Will Firth, who was born in 1990 and is now an actor in his own right — after a five-year relationship with actress Meg Tilly.

Colin and Meg lived for several years in a log cabin deep in the woods of rural Canada before Firth’s career took him back to London. Their eventual separation was amicable.

Firth later described meeting Livia as ‘like meeting somebody that you just feel you’re the other half to’.

Livia was 27 years old when she married 36-year-old Firth in a romantic hilltop ceremony at a 13th-century church set among forests and vineyards near her home in Citta della Pieve in June 1997.

A picnic reception was held in an olive grove on a nearby estate owned by Livia’s parents.

More than two decades on, the Firth’s marriage was, until this week, widely regarded as one of the strongest in showbiz.

The couple have two sons, Luca, 16 and Matteo, 13, and have homes in Chiswick, West London and in Umbria. They also share a passion for environmental causes and global charity work.

Behind the scenes, however, it is now clear that their marriage has not always been plain sailing.

On Thursday night, as the drama surrounding the stalking allegations unfolded, a spokesman for the couple released an extraordinarily frank statement.

‘A few years ago Colin and Livia privately made the decision to separate. During that time Livia briefly became involved with former friend Mr Brancaccia. The Firths have since reunited. Subsequently, Mr Brancaccia carried out a frightening campaign of harassment over several months, much of which is documented. For obvious reasons, the Firths have never had any desire to make this matter public.’

Brancaccia’s alleged campaign of harassment is said to have extended from September 2016 to April 2017. He claims, however, that during that period he sent only two WhatsApp messages to Livia and a single email to Colin.

‘I was based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and she was in London,’ says Brancaccia. ‘I have not made one single phone call to her. Not one. I am the only case in the world of a stalker living in another continent and not making one single phone call. How is that possible?’

Brancaccia is said to have sent a ‘heartbreaking and malicious’ email to Firth, who confronted Livia with it 18 months ago.

The message is said to have included a ‘detailed diatribe’ of their affair and contained revelations ‘designed to wound’.

A friend of Firth’s said the email was an attempt to destabilise Colin and Livia’s attempt to sort things out in their marriage, adding: ‘He described intimate meetings that would devastate any husband — no matter what the state of their marriage. Colin presented this to his wife in what must have been a very difficult confrontation. But he has maintained his dignity throughout.’

Italian man accused of stalking Colin Firth's wife denies claims

‘Stronger than ever’: Livia and Colin Firth

According to Brancaccia, his affair with Livia began in Italy in the summer of 2015.

Intriguingly, despite their alleged decision to separate and the timings Brancaccia has given for the affair, Firth and dark-haired Livia were photographed together often during 2015 and 2016, including being pictured arm-in-arm at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016.

According to Brancaccia, he attended a party at the Firth’s home in Umbria while the actor was away filming in the summer of 2015. ‘We had dinner, we danced and at the end of the evening we kissed, and that was the beginning of our story.

‘We met in many places because she was travelling or we arranged some trips. She visited me in Brazil. I went to London. We were in New York, Iceland and Prague together. We met in Rome. She seemed to be a wonderful person. And she’s beautiful, of course.

‘We’d been friends for many years and suddenly this magic sparkle erupted and we fell in love. Both of us.

‘She wanted to divorce. This is what she said to me. I believed it. I had no reason to doubt it.’

He wouldn’t say how the affair ended, but it is believed that Livia called a halt to it. But, it seems, he refused to accept her decision and emailed Firth to tell him about their relationship.

‘They totally freaked out that I would go public and tell everyone this story,’ he says. ‘So, the most stupid idea they could have was to file a complaint against me for stalking because she sent me a lot of love messages, a lot of pictures, videos and even a diary full of little hearts and kisses and photos and love poems.

‘They freaked out that all this stuff would go public and ruin the image of this fantastic couple.’

Details of the police investigation first appeared in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

It reported that Brancaccia was alleged to have begun ‘stalking’ Livia in September 2016 because he could not accept being cut out of her life. He is also accused of threatening to write compromising articles about her and Firth.

They freaked out that all this stuff would go public and ruin the image of this fantastic couple

Brancaccia insists, meanwhile, that all the claims being made about him are ‘absolutely untrue.’

‘It’s a completely different story,’ he says. ‘It’s a mess, and in the end somebody will have to pay for this. I’m shocked. It’s very sad. It’s a horrible story.’

And yet, Brancaccia has faced accusations of threatening behaviour once before. Nearly 15 years ago, he was embroiled in a lengthy bitter legal battle with his Icelandic former partner, Snaefridur Baldvinsdottir, over custody of their daughter, Marta.

The family had been living in Mexico where Marco was working at the time, but politician’s daughter Snaefridur (known as Didi) used an emergency passport issued by the Icelandic embassy in Mexico City to return to Iceland in 2003 after Brancaccia allegedly seized their daughter’s passport.

Brancaccia accused her of child abduction and said that her father had misused his political influence to assist his daughter’s flight.

She later told Reykjavik District Court in 2004 that Brancaccia’s behaviour towards her had been violent, something he absolutely denied. The case was widely reported in Icelandic newspapers.

Tragically, Didi died in 2013 after suffering an epileptic fit at home in Iceland,.

But her 79-year-old father, Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, former chairman of the Icelandic Social Democratic Party, told me that his daughter, who was signed to Elite models at the age of 17 and went on to become a university lecturer, ‘was afraid of Marco’.

She was later granted sole custody of her daughter.

‘They were living in Mexico and she fled under threat of legal action,’ said Mr Hannibalsson. ‘It’s no secret that my daughter accused him of violence.’

Intriguingly, a report on the court case from 2005 also refers to attempts by Brancaccia to ‘give away the dark secrets of the family’ in court.

He was prevented from doing so by an Icelandic judge.

Speaking outside the courtroom, he said that the secrets referred to ‘things that matter for the custody case. I am not allowed to tell the whole story about the family. This matters in this case and the well-being of my child.’ Now it seems the Firths fear that Brancaccia will reveal all about his passionate romance with Livia.

A source close to the couple said this week that the case was hugely distressing for the entire family and that despite the blip in their marriage, they were ‘still together and now stronger than ever’. They are due to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary in June.

Brancaccia also claims to be distressed by the accusations against him and says he hasn’t slept for three days.

Somewhere in the midst of all these claims and counter-claims lies the truth. Lawyers on both sides are said to be furiously negotiating behind the scenes in a bid to resolve this ugly case.

A spokesman for the couple said: ‘This is an ongoing criminal prosecution and it would be inappropriate to comment in this circumstance.’