Beaten French tourists staying on in NZ

By Natalie Akoorie


Two French tourists plan to continue their New Zealand holiday after a terrifying attack police have labelled "abhorrent".

The 21-year-old backpackers are trying to put the frightening incident behind them after they were driven to a disused service station, beaten up and robbed of their passports, money and possessions.

The young men received minor injuries and were "shaken up" by the ordeal, spending hours describing the attack to Tauranga Police via interpreters yesterday.

Police said the pair, who had been in the country only a couple of months, thumbed a lift from Mt Maunganui with two men in a black car about 4pm on Saturday.

Just south of Papamoa the driver pulled off State Highway 2 into an old petrol station next to Welcome Bay Rd, parking behind the empty building, Mt Maunganui CIB Detective Sergeant Darryl Brazier said.

"The two tourists were then assaulted and had their money, passports, some clothing and other possessions stolen by the two occupants of the vehicle."

The offenders, described as Maori or Pacific Islander and aged between 20 and 30, sped off in their car south towards Rotorua.

Tauranga Police Senior Sergeant Glen Saunders called the attack "absolutely disgusting".

"It makes my blood boil when I hear about these sorts of things ... "Whether it happens to our residents or tourists, but particularly when you're talking about tourists it reflects badly on the country as a whole."

Mr Saunders said the reality was that hitchhiking carried an element of risk.

"If you're talking about hitchhiking, where you are relying on the goodwill of some people, then obviously there's a risk that that's going to be compromised."

Mr Saunders said Tauranga Police had fielded dozens of offers of accommodation for the victims, whose English was very limited.

"They are very thankful for the offers of assistance from within the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Hawkes Bay".

He said the young men had organised emergency funds from home to continue their holiday.

They had also contacted the French Embassy in Wellington to organise emergency passports.

French Ambassador Francis Etienne said he was happy with the way police had handled the matter.

Police yesterday appealed for witnesses to the incident or sightings of the car, described as an older model four-door sedan in rough condition.

The registration number is thought to be ZR9879, or similar.

That number plate is registered to a black Nissan Pulsar and police were investigating the car last night.

Anyone with any information was asked to call Tauranga police on 577 4300 or alternatively provide the information anonymously by calling Crimestoppers line on 0800 555111.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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