Support floods in for attacked hitchhikers

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 12:23 02/04/2014
Hitchhikers flown to Christchurch
Deidre Mussen

ATTACKED: The injured hitchhikers were flown to Christchurch Hospital, the same hospital where their alleged attacker faces a bedside court hearing.

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Support has poured in for two female hitchhikers hospitalised after being attacked by a man on the West Coast, including an offer of a car so they do not have to hitchhike again. 

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

They had been heading towards Queenstown when they were picked up in Whataroa earlier that day.

A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said the two women were both in stable conditions today after being transferred from Greymouth Hospital on Monday.

It was not known when the women would be discharged from hospital, but police had hoped to speak to them again today.

The hospital spokeswoman said the hitchhikers had been given various gifts, including teddies, by people wanting to show their support.

Hospital staff also held a collection for the women, and a ''lovely older man'' from Ashburton donated money.

Andrew Morten, of Europe-based Travel Essence, said he had spent his ''entire life" promoting New Zealand to German and Dutch travellers and incidents like Sunday's attack could have a big impact on how people perceived the country.

''You get something like this happen, it just puts New Zealand in a bad light. It creates negative press.''

Morten said he could understand if the women ''wanted to get the hell out'' of New Zealand after they were released from hospital, and said his company would help them get home if needed.

If the women wanted to stay, he could also help arrange accommodation and activities to help them get ''a bit more positive view of New Zealand than the s**t they've been through'', including offering a vehicle so they did not have to hitchhike again. 

''It is a great place. We shouldn't let the actions of one spoil our whole country. I think acts like this against tourists should be severely punished by the justice system,'' Morten said.

Glacier Country Tourism had also offered to accommodate the women if they wanted to go back to the Franz Josef area. 

''Glacier Country of course is very keen that that's not the lasting impression of this place,'' deputy chairman Wayne Costello said.

''We've got a really beautiful part of the country - in fact the world - here and we'd like to showcase that to them.''

If the women did not want to go back, the organisation would look at offering them something else, he said. 

He did not believe the attack would impact tourism in the long run, but it had unsettled many in the area.

''I think it's seen as what it is, which is an aberration. It was a shocking event; it certainly upset people," Costello said.

''People here on the Coast are very good at gathering around and making sure we do right for the affected parties and each other.''

HITCHHIKERS 'TRUSTING BUT NOT NAIVE'

A Nelson man, who met the pair two weeks ago and had been in contact with them, said the women were "still in shock and scared".

"They are trusting and honest, but not naive," said the man, who did not want to be named.

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"To find out what they went through sickens me."

The pair had recently met in Nelson and decided to journey south together.

They had been hitchhiking down the West Coast after staying a few days in Greymouth.

- The Press

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