Traumatised hikers find support

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 02/04/2014

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Members of the public have offered their support to the two hitchhiker tourists admitted to hospital after being attacked by a man on the West Coast.

A 28-year-old German woman and a 27-year-old Japanese-Dutch woman were found with stab wounds and broken bones in Franz Josef on Sunday afternoon.

They had been heading to Queenstown when they were picked up in Whataroa earlier that day. The pair had previously met in Nelson.

Tasman district commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said the women were "doing a lot better and are very, very grateful for the support they are getting from New Zealanders".

"It's really encouraging, in terms of the support offered."

They were medically stable, but "in these situations it's the trauma and emotion attached to it which is the hardest part for them to deal with," Chambers said.

A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said members of the public had sent the women gifts while they were undergoing initial treatment at Greymouth Hospital.

The women were transferred to Christchurch late on Monday and police hoped to speak to them further today.

The hitchhikers were given gifts, including teddybears, by people wanting to show their support, the spokeswoman said. Hospital staff also held a collection for the women, and a "lovely older man" from Ashburton donated money.

A tourism group in the Franz Josef area had also offered to show the women "the sights", if they wanted to go back, she said.

West Coast Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said the attack was a shocking incident and put the region's reputation at risk.

"This low life [attack suspect] has put our regional reputation and that of the tourism industry and of the whole country at risk. I hope that people still feel confident they can hitch through our region," O'Connor said.

The region had a reputation for great hospitality. He was sure those in his electorate would offer the women support when they were discharged from hospital and try to restore faith in the region.

O'Connor said he often picked up hitchhikers along the West Coast and that he would continue to do so. "It's a wonderful way for people to travel, they should always feel safe."

Westland district mayor Mike Havill also said the West Coast was a very safe place, "the hospitality in the South is fantastic".

The man at the centre of the police inquiry into the attack and the killing of a Christchurch woman was not from the West Coast, he said.

"He came from the North Island and from Christchurch, he certainly wasn't one of us.

"I would hope the actions of one criminal doesn't have an impact on other people."

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