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Malaysia earthquake: British woman 'very sorry' for offence caused by naked mountain pictures blamed for 'triggering quake'

By David Mercer and Kate Ferguson

A British graduate blamed for triggering an earthquake by posing naked on a sacred mountain knows what she did was "stupid and disrespectful and is very sorry for the offence that she has caused", her father said today.

Eleanor Hawkins, 23, is among a group of Western backpackers who have been arrested after photos emerged of them allegedly stripping naked on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.

A magnitude-5.9 earthquake struck the 13,400ft-high mountain last Friday, killing 18 people and leaving hundreds more stranded.

Today her father Tim said in a statement: "We managed to speak to Ellie yesterday morning and she is obviously quite scared and upset.

"She knows what she did was stupid and disrespectful and is very sorry for the offence that she has caused the Malaysian people.

"She has never been in any sort of trouble before."

He added: "We hope that the Malaysian authorities deal with the misdemeanour and not link it to the unfortunate tragic events that occurred the following week."

Miss Hawkins, an aeronautical engineering graduate from Derby, was arrested on Tuesday at Tawau airport as she was flying from the island of Borneo to the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

She is now facing an anxious wait to hear if she will be prosecuted over allegations of indecent behaviour, which carries a possible three-month prison sentence or fine.

Mr Hawkins said: "We are not really sure what she has actually been charged with, apart from a blanket penal code section number. We don't have any updates yet."

Asked how his daughter is, he said: "As far as I know, she is OK. She is a very intelligent, stoic young woman and she's OK. I think she is preparing herself for the worst, just in case, but apart from that I haven't spoken to her so I can't really say."

Mr Hawkins said he is in touch with the Foreign Office and vice consul in Kuala Lumpur and there may be an update later today.

His daughter is believed to be part of a group of 10 people who stripped naked before taking photos at the peak of Mount Kinabalu on May 30.

Sabah state deputy chief minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan in Malaysia blamed the earthquake six days later on the tourists showing "disrespect to the sacred mountain".

He has said a special ritual will be conducted to "appease the mountain spirit".

Mr Hawkins has said he does not want to prejudice his daughter's case by voicing his views on Mr Kitingan's belief the group's act caused the earthquake.

But he criticised the actions of an arrested Canadian - named in reports as 33-year-old Emil Kaminski - who is said to have circulated the photos and posted offensive comments on social media.

He accused the "halfwit Canadian guy" of "stirring up a media storm".

Mr Kaminski appears to have posted a string of inflammatory comments on his Facebook page dismissing criticisms of the group's behaviour.

He has made a 12-minute YouTube video of himself, entitled Trolling Malaysia, in which he hits out at criticisms of himself and the photos by saying: "Jesus Christ, people, it is just a f****** mountain."

He also lashed out at Sabah's tourism minister, Masidi Manjun, whom he branded "an idiot" for reportedly linking the earthquake to the naked photos.

On a Twitter account believed to belong to Mr Kaminski, he wrote: "Solitary confinement = no sex, but on the upside, excellent wifi in my cell."

Miss Hawkins's lawyer Ronny Cham said his client is holding up, but faces an anxious wait to hear if she will be prosecuted.

He said: "Everything is awaiting now for the police to do the investigation and as to when they will charge her or whether they will charge her, we do not know. Nobody knows.

"When they are ready to charge her, I think they will let me know. They are remanded for four days, which is up until Saturday."

Miss Hawkins, who recently graduated with a masters in aeronautical engineering from Southampton University, was in the middle of a gap year travelling around south-east Asia which began in January.

She went to Malaysia at the start of May and later that month travelled to Borneo.

Police obtained a court order to detain her and three other westerners for four days while they are investigated for indecent behaviour, Sabah state police chief Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said.

Two Canadian siblings, Lindsey and Danielle Petersen, and a Dutch male surrendered at a police station in Sabah on Tuesday evening, he said.

Mr Hawkins said he will not be commenting further to the media until he has spoken to his daughter's lawyer and the vice consul in Malaysia.

Independent News Service


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