'Someone pushed her' says friend of drowned athlete

Imen Chatbouri. Image: Il Messaggero

ROME – A video obtained by the prosecution has confirmed that the ex-athletics champion from Tunisia who was found drowned in the Tiber last week was pushed, as her friends had suggested at the time.

 The CCTV footage shows a man following Imen Chatbouri at a distance. When she stops for a rest on the Ponte Sisto, he pushes her over the parapet. Chatbouri, 37, was found dead in the early hours of May 2 on the bank of the Tiber, on the Campo de’ Fiori side of the river.

 The heptathlete was a regular at some of the local bars, including her favourite in via Micara. She may have been heading home, or to a friend’s house, at the time, when she was followed and killed.

 While many had assumed she had fallen into the river after drinking during the evening, friends of Chatbouri, a heptathlon champion who had won a bronze medal at the African Games in 2002, insisted she hadn’t. They also dismissed the possibility of suicide, since the ex-athlete was happy, having recently overcome a tumour, and doing well.

 “She was happy because she had had just received citizenship income. She would not have any more financial difficulties. It is difficult to believe she could have done this on purpose, or that she had lost her balance, even if she was drinking,” a former housemate explained on Facebook.

 The investigation now turns to the man in the video, who may have spent the evening with Chatbouri. Her husband died last year, leaving Chatbouri alone in Italy. She is survived by her mother and sister, who still live in Tunisia.