A witness who saw the injuries inflicted on a pair of teenaged tourists says one of them was barely recognisable after the Boxing Day attack.
Four teenagers appeared in Whakatane District Court yesterday over the attack on the young German couple, who had decided to freedom camp in a small Whakatane park at Christmas.
The couple, a 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, were recovering in Whakatane Hospital after the group woke them in their tent early on Thursday, and then beat them with wooden bats.
Despite being battered and bloodied, the two managed to get away and raise the alert with the help of a nearby resident.
A woman, who was in Whakatane Hospital's emergency department when the couple were brought in, said the young man had lost many of his front teeth and his face had been beaten beyond recognition.
"His face didn't look like a face ... you couldn't even recognise him."
Both suffered lacerations and bruising. The woman, who was still able to speak, also suffered facial and arm injuries, including fractures.
The youths had been ransacking their pup tent when police arrived. Four were caught soon after, two of them by a police dog and handler who tracked them to a river.
Three males, aged 14, 17 and 18 and a 15-year-old female, all from the eastern Bay of Plenty, have been charged with aggravated robbery. All four have been remanded in custody to reappear on New Year's Eve. Their identities have been suppressed.
Police were still looking for a fifth youth who was also believed to have been involved in the incident.
Offers of support for the couple were continuing to flow in from around the country.
Several offers, including one yesterday from a luxury hotel in Auckland, have been made through the Herald.
Police asked people to email messages of support to email@example.com.
"These young people are here having an adventure and thugs ruin it. What an advert for our country."
- Alison Taylor
"The worst and the best sides of New Zealand coming to the fore."
- Jamie Kahn Genet
"I am ashamed to call myself a New Zealander when I hear of such dastardly acts done by the minority who act in this manner."
- Joy Urlich