A tourist who carved his name and that of his girlfriend into the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in a video seen by millions is a fitness instructor who lives in Britain, MailOnline can reveal.
Ivan Dimitrov, 27, who also goes by the name Ivan Hawkins, was caught on camera by American holidaymaker Ryan Lutz as he carved the words, ‘Ivan and Hayley 23’ into the brickwork with a set of keys.
Bulgarian-born Ivan was in Rome with his long-term girlfriend Hayley Bracey, 33, last weekend and officials were left furious at the wanton vandalism and vowed to track the culprit down.
MailOnline has established that Ivan who is originally from Lovech, works as a fitness coach in Bristol but also has a job as a delivery driver.
Hayley is thought to run her own sports nutrition business and the pair live together in the suburb of Keynsham not far from the Longwell Green gym where Ivan coaches.
Ivan Dimitrov (left) was in Rome with his long-term girlfriend Hayley Bracey (right) when he carved ‘Ivan & Hayley 23’ into the 2,000 year old Colosseum in the Italian capital
A bystander filmed Mr Dimitrov, a fitness instructor from Bristol, as he carved the names into the stone walls of the 1,937-year-old building using a set of keys last Friday, June 23
In a statement released this afternoon a spokesman for the Carabinieri said: ‘Following investigations, subsequent to the complaint presented by the Colosseum Park Authority, the Carabinieri of the Command of Rome Piazza Venezia, coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Rome, have identified, through traditional investigations and photographic comparison, the person seriously suspected of be responsible for engraving his own name and that of his partner, at the Colosseum, filming the scene, then published on social media.
‘The Carabinieri have ascertained that it is a couple, man and woman, residing in England.
‘It should be noted that the proceeding is in the preliminary investigation phase, therefore the suspect must consider himself innocent until a final sentence is issued.’
Meanwhile in a statement Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said: ‘I am grateful to the Arma dei Carabinieri for having promptly identified the alleged perpetrator of the uncivilized and absurd act committed at the Colosseum.
‘An act that has offended all those throughout the world who appreciate the value of archaeology, monuments and history.
Mr Dimitrov (right), who also goes by the name Ivan Hawkins, is originally from Bulgaria
‘Now I hope that justice will take its course by rigorously applying the laws. If it comes to a trial, the Ministry of Culture will appear as a civil party’.
Builders were at the couple’s home in Bristol and a workman told MailOnline: ‘They left last week and aren’t due back for a fortnight. We are just doing the groundwork. They said they were touring Europe.’
Hayley’s mother told MailOnline: ‘No, that can’t be right. She wouldn’t do anything like that. She’s on holiday in Italy. Ivan is her partner, and they are both away.’
Her father refused to comment when approached by MailOnline saying: ‘I’ve got nothing to say.’
On Mr Dimitrov’s Facebook business page – Ivan Fitness and Coaching – there are several photos and videos of him at the gym and he tells prospective clients: ‘Always hungry for results and always ready to work and do my best! (and be silly lol)’.
Another series of pictures shows Ivan and his girlfriend posing together in the gym with a well-wisher adding: ‘Ah sooo cute. Happy Birthday Hayley.’
Ryan posted the video online after stumbling across Ivan – dressed in a blue T shirt and shorts – as he defaced the brickwork and can be heard in the footage saying: ‘Are you serious man? That is f***** up man. Stupid a******.’
A distinctive black sports watch with a round face on his wrist matches one he is wearing on his fitness training Facebook page – while Hayley who is dressed in a white and wearing a backpack remains facing the wall.
When challenged Ivan simply turns and grins inanely at Ryan before turning his attention back to carving his name and Hayley’s on the wall.
Geographer Ryan posted the footage on the Reddit website entitling it ‘A***** tourist carves his and girlfriend’s names on Colosseum wall’ and it quickly went viral with the clip viewed on YouTube alone more than 220,000 times.
There was also outcry from officials in Rome, with the country’s furious Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano saying:’ I consider it very serious, unworthy and a sign of great incivility that a tourist defaces one of the most famous places in the world, a historical heritage such as the Colosseum, to engrave the name of his fiancée.
‘I hope that whoever made this gesture at the Flavian Amphitheatre will be identified and sanctioned according to our laws.’
Mr Dimitrov, who was born in Bulgaria, is pictured with Hayley who he lives with in the UK
Hayley (pictured in front of her boyfriend) is thought to run her own sports nutrition business and the pair live together in the suburb of Keynsham, Somerset
Builders were at the couple’s home in Bristol and a workman told MailOnline: ‘They left last week and aren’t due back for a fortnight. They said they were touring Europe.’
Geographer Ryan Lutz, 38, filmed the tourist as he carved the names into the stone walls of the 1,937-year-old building using a set of keys
The video of Ivan was shared on Reddit with the caption: ‘A******e tourist carves name in Colosseum in Rome’
In the video, Ryan approached the man believed to be Ivan: ‘Are you serious man? That is f***ed up man. Stupid a******e’
Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum, said: ‘The Carabinieri police are now tracking down this man and we will see if we can get him. When you get uneducated people at the Colosseum this kind of hooliganism happens, and I hope there are no copycats.
‘What is worse is that he scratched his name right next to a large sign telling people not to write on the walls.’
Russo said the damaged brickwork was part of a wall built in 1840 during restoration rather than the original façade but she added it was nevertheless still serious.
A Carabinieri paramilitary police spokesperson in Rome said: ‘An investigation has been launched after a complaint of vandalism was made by the authorities at the Colosseum. We are trying to identify the person in the video and as yet we have no update.’
Punishments for defacing historical monuments include fines of up to 15,000 Euros and a maximum five years in prison and this is the fourth time this year the Colosseum has been vandalised.
After filming the incident, Ryan exclusively told MailOnline earlier this week: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I saw what this jerk was doing to the brickwork.
‘I’m fascinated by history and culture and here was this dumba** defacing it which is a crime and I wanted to do something about it.
‘That’s why I took the video and I showed it to the security guard at the site and I pointed the couple out to them.
‘He said there was nothing he could do as he hadn’t actually seen them defacing the wall but he said I should speak with his boss. So I did and he told me the police had been called.
‘That was the last I heard and then I left the Colosseum and carried on with my day. I posted the video in the hope that someone would recognise and identify them and then they will be punished.
‘I think both of them, whoever they are, are idiots and I have a horrible gut feeling these two jerks are American because it’s the sort of thing we have a reputation for doing.
‘But I respect culture and history and I’m grateful to be a visitor to a place like Rome and be hosted by such wonderful people and then two idiots do something like this.
‘They clearly have no shame and when he looked at me in that bizarre way and he just smiled you can hear what I thought of him.
‘I don’t understand what would possess someone to do something like that and I really hope that are caught and punished.’
This is not the first time tourists have been fined for vandalising what is believed to be the world’s largest amphitheatre.
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined £17,000 (€20,000) for carving the letter ‘K’ on a section of brickwork
In January 2017, the Colosseum was vandalised with black spray paint, officials have said
In 2020, an Irish tourist was arrested for allegedly carving his initials into the Colosseum.
The Carabinieri police said a 32-year-old man was caught by the Colosseum’s private security and immediately reported to officers.
The man’s two initials, about 2in high, were said to have been carved with a metal point on a pillar of the first floor in September 2020.
The unnamed man was accused of damaging a historical and artistic landmark.
Archaeologist Federica Rinaldi, responsible for the ancient Roman amphitheater, said people who carve their initials into the monument want to ‘appropriate’ it.
She added: ‘The Colosseum, like any monument that represents the history of all of us, must be preserved and handed over to future generations.’
The Colosseum, considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is a World Heritage Site.
This is along with 54 other Italian sites which comprise the city’s historic centre.
In January 2017, the Colosseum was vandalised with black spray paint, officials have said.
The name ‘Balto’ and the word ‘Morte’ (death) were sprayed onto the pillar overnight.
In 2015, two American tourists were arrested for carving initials into the Colosseum. Before they were spotted, the women, 21 and 25, were able to carve a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum
Two Brazilian men who attempted to climb over a gate into the Colosseum on the same day were apprehended by the authorities when they fell 13 feet (four metres), one fracturing his hip bone.
CCTV was studied to see if they were responsible for the the graffiti.
Francesco Prosperetti, special superintendent for the Colosseum, said: ‘We worry that this could become a game and people could start competing over it.’
In 2015, two American tourists were arrested for carving initials into the Colosseum.
Before they were spotted, the women, 21 and 25, were able to carve a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum.
After carving the 8in-high letters, the women posed together for a selfie.
The women, just two of six million tourists that flock to the Colosseum every year, used a coin to engrave the letters, La Stampa reported.
They are said to have broken away from their tour group – but other tourists saw what had happened and alerted security.
Police charged the women with ‘aggravated damage on building of historical and artistic interest’, according to Repubblica.
After they were caught, the women apologised to Piazza Dante police and Captain Lorenzo Iacobone.
They said: ‘We apologise for what we did. We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious. We’ll remember for a lifetime.’
According to The Guardian, the section damaged dates back to the 1800s – a key period of restoration.
A spokesman for the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome is quoted as saying: ‘It’s not an original wall but it’s nevertheless antique.’
Other tourists have repeatedly caused chaos in Rome, like in 2018, when two British tourists stripped and posed for photos in a fountain at one of Rome ‘s most famous monuments
One of the Britons can be seen removing his underwear as the two men frolicked in the water at the foot of Altare della Patria in the Italian capital
In 2014, a Russian tourist was fined £17,000 (20,000€) for carving the letter ‘K’ on a section of brickwork.
Construction on the Colosseum began sometime between 70 and 72CE and seated around 50,000 spectators.
They came to watch gladiators in combat with each other and dangerous animals, including lions.
Other tourists have repeatedly caused chaos in Rome, like in 2018, when two British tourists stripped and posed for photos in a fountain at one of Rome‘s most famous monuments.
One of the Britons can be seen removing his underwear as the two men frolicked in the water at the foot of Altare della Patria in the Italian capital.
Others filmed as the men laughed and jokingly flexed their muscles in front of bemused tourists.
Their antics were captured on camera by a tour guide at the landmark – a monument to war dead that was originally built in honour of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the unified Italy.
In the footage, two men – reported as being British by local media – are seen posing for photos in the fountain wearing only their briefs.
Several people position themselves by the wall, dipping their feet into the water and taking photos.
One of the men then pulls his underwear down and hides his genitals between his legs to pose naked for photos. Numerous visitors walk past the Britons as they continued to misbehave.
The footage caused outrage on social media. One Italian wrote online: ‘English sons of b*****s, always playing up and attention-seeking.’
Local media said at the time that this was yet another assault on Italy’s heritage.