A landmark case currently creating ripples in the travel industry involves a female doctor who booked an overseas holiday, was brutally raped within hours of arrival and then claims she was offered a free massage and manicure as compensation by the tour operator.
British doctor Georgina Mortimer had booked a ‘dream holiday’ on the Caribbean island of St Lucia with a women-only sailing company accredited by Britain’s Royal Yacht Association, London’s Sun newspaper reported.
Within hours of arriving, Mortimer, a 45-year-old mother of two, was attacked in the bedroom of her villa.
For the travel industry, the case may be of potential legal significance. The doctor is suing the sailing company which arranged the trip, and the villa owner, for negligence. If she succeeds, it could open the way for other tourists to launch similar negligence suits against private accommodation providers.
Mortimer told the Sun on Sunday she had booked her sailing tuition holiday with a women-only firm, believing she would be safe.
She said the sailing company claims to empower women by helping them learn to sail without men, but she woke up shortly after arrival to the horror of being raped and nearly strangled by a stranger who entered her room.
She made her way home to Britain after the attack and found it “disgusting” to be offered a massage and manicure via email, to “cheer her up” after such an assault.
She was later refunded her money and offered a complimentary day’s sailing, which she said additionally belittled the ordeal she had endured.
After arrival back in Britain, Mortimer said she discovered that over the past year, 60 cases of rape have been reported in St Lucia.
She feels that she should have been warned of the risks.
In March this year, the then prime minister of St Lucia, Kenny Anthony, said publicly he strongly believed serial rapists were operating in the small island nation and that everything must be done to bring them to justice.
“We need to look seriously at the suggestion that a sex offenders list be created,” he told Caribbean News Now.
Last September, the St Lucia Vendors Association said crime on the Caribbean island was escalating to the point where cruise lines may consider dropping the destination from their itineraries. In March this year, the St Lucia Times reported that masked men armed with a gun and a pair of scissors had raped a woman in the north of the island, and just weeks later, two teenage girls were raped in Derek Walcott Square, right in the centre of St Lucia’s capital, Castries.
While police were investigating, a police officer was charged with rape over a separate incident, as well as attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The population of St Lucia is 186,700, about the same as Townsville in Australia.
Written by Peter Needham