23-year-old British woman faces three months in prison for ‘causing Malaysian earthquake’ after posing naked with friends.
A 23-year-old British woman is believed to have offended the gods by posing naked with friends on a Malaysian mountain, resulting in a colossal earthquake.
Eleanor Hawkins is one of a group of ten travellers who reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu on 30th May this year and stripped naked for celebratory photographs that were shared widely on social media.
On Friday 5th June a monumental earthquake of magnitude 6.0 (one of the biggest of the decade) hit Borneo Island’s Sabah state, resulting in landslides on Mount Kinabalu that killed 18 people (including 12 students and a teacher on a school trip).
Local officials have blamed the tourists, believing them to have enraged the spirits on the sacred mountain. The group was banned from leaving the country.
A senior minister said that the tourists had shown ‘disrespect’ to the mountain, which is considered sacred by local tribes.
On Tuesday Hawkins, from Derby, was arrested at Malaysia’s Tawau airport for trying to board a plane to Kuala Lumpur. Shortly afterwards Dutch tourist, Dylan Snel and Canadian siblings, Lindsey and Danielle Petersen, turned themselves in to Malaysian police. The remaining members of the group are believed to have fled.
The four defendants appeared in Malaysian court on Wednesday, facing charges of ‘committing obscene acts in public’ and have been remanded in custody awaiting further investigation.
The sentence for the crime carries a maximum of three months in prison, along with a fine.
Their lawyer, Ronny Cham, has requested that the group be held separately form other detainees to guarantee their safety. He said that Eleanor was ‘a bit traumatised’ but is ‘okay because she is being looked after by the British consulate.’
Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia. The name translates as ‘resting place of the dead’ and the Kadazan Dusun tribe believes that the mountain is home to the spirits of their late ancestors.
Every December, according to the BBC, the tribe performs a ritual to placate spirits and allow tourists to continue climbing the mountain. Climbers are asked to respect the mountain and not to shout or swear whilst on it.
Local MP, Wilfred Tangau, has said: ‘Some places have their own historical background and are sacred to the local community and, as such, visitors to these places should respect the place, the local traditions and cultures.’
‘There is what I call a mountain protocol to be observed. We local people believe that there is someone, the guardians of these places, and there is a form of order of sacredness for those who go to the mountain to respect.’
This may all seem unfamiliar to us in the UK but Tangau has said: ‘it is all right, they can laugh at our native court. Go ahead,’ but ‘this is how we’ve been living for so long, without police and in harmony. So action must be taken.’
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Malaysia’s Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Alfred Jab has blamed the tourists for the earthquake, saying they should receive proper punishment.
Eleanor’s father, Timothy Hawkins, has said that she is ‘very sorry for the offence that she has caused,’ and that Eleanor has admitted she was ‘stupid and disrespectful.’
However, Mr Hawkins has also stated that although it’s ‘fair enough to charge for the misdemeanour committed,’ he doesn’t want the situation to be ‘blown out of all proportion.’
He said his daughter is okay but that it’s ‘not a situation she’s been in before, so it’s not good.’