Three backpackers have been violently assaulted in New Zealand after attackers demanded they speak English.
Nicholas Aubertin does speak English – he is an Englishman from London. But he was speaking French with a friend from France when the two were set upon by a gang outside the Vagabond Backpacker Hostel in Christchurch. Another backpacker was also attacked.
The assault happened in the early hours of Saturday morning, the Christchurch Press reported.
Aubertin, 24, was asked if he could “speak English” in the attack by up to eight young men that broke his jaw and left him bruised and battered.
Aubertin said the gang was “looking for trouble” and one in particular was very aggressive.
“One of the last things I remember was one of them asking if I could speak English.”
The Frenchman was brought into the hostel shortly afterwards with a seriously damaged eye, the paper said. The third man was injured, but not hospitalised.
Vagabond owner Graeme Wills said attacks on tourists affected the whole tourism sector. Police say they are following leads.
While New Zealand is a safe country overall, with a crime rate similar to that in Australia, tourists are sometimes targeted.
Earlier this year, two male American tourists fell victim to a “vicious and unprovoked” attack less than 48 hours after arriving in New Zealand on holiday, leaving one of them requiring reconstructive surgery.
In that incident, the Americans, aged 22 and 23, were attacked and beaten up in the courtyard of the backpackers’ lodge where they were staying in Paihia in New Zealand’s far north.
That attack also happened in the early hours of a Saturday morning.
In April last year, three English tourists were robbed at knifepoint at a spot in Paihia very near to where the American tourists were attacked. On that occasion, the robbers took the tourists’ possessions and their car.
Two German tourists, a 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, were hospitalised over the holiday season last year after being beaten and robbed when attacked in their tent in the North Island town of Whakatane.
In October last year, two young French tourists, a man and woman, were in their campervan in Napier when approached at night by a woman brandishing a pistol and a man wielding a baseball bat. The male tourist was pistol-whipped in the ensuing scuffle. The French couple, visiting New Zealand on a working holiday, spoke little English and police used interpreters to help interview them.
Written by Peter Needham