Backpackers shocked by attack on tourists

Tourists backpacking around the beauty spots of the South Island's wild West Coast have been shocked by the brutal attack on two young women.

But opinion is divided on whether they should continue hitchhiking, with some vowing to give up the risky practice and others saying they're not deterred by the one-off event.

A 28-year-old German woman and a 27-year-old Japanese woman were attacked after hitching a ride near Franz Josef on Sunday.

One woman was stabbed and the other one was badly injured after being dumped from the moving vehicle like "a bag of rubbish", according to eye-witnesses.

Their conditions were listed as stable at Grey Base Hospital yesterday, ahead of a possible transfer to Christchurch Hospital this morning.

The women were visited yesterday by Tasman District Commander Superintendent Richard Chambers.

He told them their alleged attacker, a 38-year-old man, may also be involved in the death of Christchurch woman Amy Farrall, 24, whose body was found in the boot of her car in a Woolston supermarket car-park on Sunday.

"Naturally they are very relieved to know we have apprehended this man, however they are still extremely traumatised and upset," Mr Chambers said.

Police will formally interview the victims - who had met in Nelson and decided to team up and hitchhike - once their condition improves.

Meanwhile, the attack has shocked the backpacker community.

Annika Kroll, from Germany, has been travelling around New Zealand since December.

The 18-year-old had planned to hitchhike from Greymouth to Te Anau in the next few days to attempt the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park. But she had been shaken up by Sunday's events.

"You hear lovely stories about people hitchhiking in New Zealand and meeting amazing people, and how it's such a safe place," she said, speaking at the Duke Hostel in Greymouth.

"This is unexpected and very shocking, and I don't think I can hitchhike any more.

"And I won't be telling my mother [back in Germany] about this. She will worry too much."

Last year, a coroner highlighted the risks involved in hitchhiking after Czech tourist Dagmar Pytlickova, 31, was picked up by convicted kidnapper Jason Frandi before he sexually assaulted and killed her.

During the hearing, police revealed there was no official police policy on hitchhiking, but they warned against doing it.

Some tourists are putting Sunday's attack down as a tragic, one-off event and have vowed to continue thumbing rides.

Ann Scott, manager of Ivory Towers lodge and backpackers at Fox Glacier, said plenty of tourists were on the road hitching yesterday.

"They were all pretty nonplussed about it," she said.

"As dreadful as it is for the two girls and their families, it's the risk you take when you're hitching."

Hitchhiking is a popular way of getting up and down the West Coast.

Jan Hartlieb, an 18-year-old German, said he would still hitchhike alone but would be more cautious.

Even a 22-year-old Israeli woman, who did not want to be named, said she had hitchhiked from Franz Josef to Greymouth on Sunday - the same day as the attack - but vowed to continue thumbing for lifts.

"I felt very upset and shocked that it happened the same day I was hitchhiking but I will still do it. There are not many options."

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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