Teens charged over attack on German campers

TALIA SHADWELL AND SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 12:38 27/12/2013

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Four teenagers have appeared in court today charged in relation to the alleged aggravated robbery yesterday of two German tourists camping in Whakatane.

The German couple's camping trip turned into a nightmare when they were forced to flee their attackers following the early-morning Boxing Day attack in the Bay of Plenty town.

Three of those charged in relation to the the attack are males aged, 14, 17 and 18. The fourth person is a female aged 15. The 17-year-old is from the Whakatane area and the other three are from Opotiki.

They all have name suppression and were remanded to reappear on New Year's Eve.

Police said they were still looking for a fifth youth who was believed to have been involved in the incident.

A witness who saw the young couple's injuries described the 18-year-old German woman's blonde hair as being stained red with blood, with a "massive" gash in her forehead.

The 19-year-old German man's teeth had been smashed in and his face was blackened and nearly "unrecognisable".

Police yesterday said they had recovered weapons believed to have been used by the attackers but would not confirm whether wooden bats were used.

Police spokeswoman Kim Perks said the couple had been freedom camping near a skate park off the intersection of Beach St and McAlister Rd when they were attacked.

During the alleged assault they had managed to get away from their assailants and sought help at a nearby house, while another person heard their screams and phoned police.

Police said the offenders had been ransacking the tent when police arrived. They initially fled before a police dog and handler tracked down two of the group.

Last night, both tourists remained in Whakatane Hospital in a stable condition, recovering from fractures and cuts.

Perks said police had been "overwhelmed" with public support and offers of assistance for the young tourists. Some had even offered to make donations to help the pair.

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said the town had been rocked by the news of the attack and the community wanted to support the injured tourists.

"It's hard to fathom," he said.

"I'm pleased that the police have been able to act swiftly, that's been really good. [The attackers] are not welcome in our community."

Meanwhile, Perks said the pair had managed to speak to their parents in Germany from their hospital beds.

Tourism New Zealand spokesman Chris Roberts said the attack sounded like a case of "wrong place, wrong time".

"It's always unfortunate to hear of such incidents," he said.

"New Zealand, like any destination in the world, does unfortunately see crime against tourists as well as locals."

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Roberts warned against freedom camping and said Tourism NZ's advice was for visitors to stay in controlled camping grounds. 

IS NZ A SAFE DESTINATION?

Many overseas visitors see New Zealand as a safe travel destination, but violent attacks on tourists in recent years paint a chilling picture.

October 2013: French couple sleeping in a Napier car park attacked and pistol-whipped.

July 2013: Two tourists assaulted and robbed while in a hot pool near Rotorua.

April 2013: Three English tourists sleeping in their car in Paihia robbed at knifepoint. A Canadian tourist also assaulted and robbed. November 2012: Two Austrian tourists assaulted with a bottle and robbed in Palmerston North.

August 2012: Female tourist indecently assaulted near Taupo backpackers' hostel.

July 2012: Two French tourists assaulted and robbed hitch-hiking from Mt Maunganui to Rotorua.

May 2012: Czech woman murdered while hitch-hiking to Timaru.

May 2012: Two tourists stabbed by a Taupo teenager.

December 2011: A 5-year-old Belgian girl staying in a Turangi campground with parents assaulted and raped by a local teenager.

December 2010: A German tourist knocked unconscious and robbed in Queenstown.

June 2010: A Czech tourist stabbed in Motueka backpackers.

May 2010: Three French tourists staying in a campervan in Northland attacked and robbed.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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