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Trekkers attacked on PNG hike

Friday 15 January 2016 | Published in Regional

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PORT MORESBY – Police in Papua New Guinea are questioning three men over the rape, assault and robbery of two foreign trekkers on the country’s famous Kokoda Track this week.

The men are accused of ambushing an American woman and British man on Monday, thought to be the first such attack on trekkers undertaking the historic World War Two trail.

Police said the 32-year-old man and 31-year-old woman were hiking the track without a tour guide.

The area’s police commander, Acting Superintendent Laimo Asi, said it seemed two men conducted the attack and a third man arranged it, after first working as a porter for the couple.

Superintendent Asi said they were several days into the trek when they were ambushed by two masked men wielding spears and bush knives.

“They were taken into the jungle. And then they got them blindfolded and then they were attacked using the bush knife and spear,” he said.

“The porter just let them go on their own on Monday morning and about one-and-a-half hours later, they were attacked.”

The men held the British tourist captive while they raped his companion and stole phones and cash, before leading the tourists back to the track.

Assistant Police Commissioner Sylvester Kalaut is overseeing the police response from Port Moresby.

“They managed to get away from the criminals and they made their way to another village and they managed to get help and a chopper was flown in to the area and they got them repatriated back to Port Moresby,” Commissioner Kalaut said.

The villagers who live along the Kokoda Track rely heavily on trekking groups for employment and commerce.

Superintendent Laimo Asi said villagers from the area of the attack were shocked to hear of the crime, and helped police catch the perpetrators.

“This is terrible and they did not expect this to happen,” he said. “The villagers are putting their full support behind this investigation and they themselves assisted the police in apprehending the persons they believe are involved.”

Trekking Kokoda guide Brad Watts said usually the safest place to be was on the Kokoda Track.

“It’s not something that I think could happen or would happen anywhere on the Kokoda Track,” Watts said.

“I’ve said to trekkers I’ve taken along before that once you’re in PNG, the safest place to be is on the Kokoda Track.”

Watts said villagers along the route were already feeling the effects of a downturn in trekker numbers and they would suffer further if news of this attack affected bookings.

“Catastrophic. If they lose the income that the trekking industry brings to the track, then they basically lose all income,” he said.

“There is no other income stream to the guys on the track.”

- ABC