'Crazed' tour guide jailed for sexually assaulting backpacker Hannah Garvios after cliff fall

By Marnie O’Neill

Hannah Garvios, 23, fought bravely against her attacker, punching him in the face and biting off part of his ear. Photo / Facebook
Hannah Garvios, 23, fought bravely against her attacker, punching him in the face and biting off part of his ear. Photo / Facebook

WARNING: Disturbing content

A deranged man who sexually assaulted a young backpacker as she lay partially paralysed from a cliff fall near a popular Thai beach resort has had his sentence halved.

Hannah Gavios, 23, was subjected to a twisted, 10-hour ordeal by tourist shop employee Apai Ruangwong after plunging 45 metres while trying to flee him on the paradise isle of Krabi last month.

The fall broke Hannah's back and she spent hours screaming for help in the darkness while her unhinged attacker alternated between praying, masturbating and groping her as she lay on a rock, unable to move.

Ruangwong, 28, was sentenced to 10 years jail earlier this month but had five years shaved off last week after pleading guilty to obscene behaviour and causing serious injury.

"I am dismayed that (the sentence) is automatically cut down to five years because of a guilty plea,' Hannah's mother Gwen told The New York Times in an email.

She said her daughter would suffer the consequences of the attack "for the rest of her life".

Hannah's nightmare began just hours after arriving on the paradise isle on September 1 for a three-day break from her job in Vietnam, where she had been teaching English to children.

Hannah had been teaching English to children in Vietnam for several months before deciding to take a three-day break in Thailand when disaster struck. Photo / Facebook
Hannah had been teaching English to children in Vietnam for several months before deciding to take a three-day break in Thailand when disaster struck. Photo / Facebook

That evening the young woman had struggled to locate her hotel, the Robinson Crusoe-esque Chill Out Bar and Bungalow at Railay Bay, and called into a tourist shop to ask for directions.

Ruangwong, who worked at the shop, offered to show her the way but instead led her into the jungle, where they started climbing a mountain. Hannah, who was still exhausted from the journey to Krabi from the mainland, followed her unofficial tour guide in good faith.

"I feel like kind of an idiot for going with him," she told her family later. "I was a little suspicious. But I was tired and wanted to get home."

As he led her deeper into the woods, she told herself to "think positively".

Then without warning, Ruangwong spun around and attacked, pinning the 152cm backpacker down and trying to tear off her clothes. Hannah fought back desperately, punching the man in the face and biting off part of his ear in her struggle to get away.

"He just grabbed me out of nowhere," she told The Times. "I tried fighting him off, punching him a million times in the face. I bit his ear like a hungry wolf. He bit my left ring finger. It started getting really violent."

He stopped and repeated "no police" as she tried to calm him down. She started walking away before breaking into a run. In a panic and unable to see properly in the darkness, she tripped and fell off a cliff above the beach, fracturing her spine as she fell 45 metres onto rocks.

Ruangwong scrambled down after her, using the torch on his mobile phone as a search light.

"I honestly thought I was going to die," Hannah said at the time.

"I hit my head a few times and landed on a big bump. I was screaming in pain. It was the most painful thing ever. I felt like a total vegetable. I felt completely vulnerable. I couldn't move anything.

"I was stuck with this crazy person."

The Chill Out Bar and Bungalow hotel at picturesque Railay Bay, where Hannah was staying on Krabi. Photo / Facebook
The Chill Out Bar and Bungalow hotel at picturesque Railay Bay, where Hannah was staying on Krabi. Photo / Facebook

For the next 10 hours, Ruangwong alternated between praying for her, masturbating over her and groping her.

"He was crying, he was apologetic," Hannah said, adding that he would shout "no, no," whenever she called for help.

He finally left just before dawn but returned with a group of local men, moving her to level ground before paramedics arrived.

"I told them he had molested me, and they were appalled," she said.

Hannah, who is currently receiving treatment in her native New York, remains partially paralysed and unable to walk.

Her family has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for medical bills, medical equipment, psychotherapy, and physical therapy.

"Hannah's recovery period is expected to last up to two years or more, and many of the expenses, such as physical therapy will not be covered (by insurance) after several months," they said in a statement on the site.

"We may have to make changes to our home, including a remodelling of our bathroom to accommodate Hannah's disabilities. We are expecting out of pocket costs to be at least US$50,000 and could be as much as US$200,000."

The campaign has so far raised almost US$70,000.

- news.com.au

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