Backpacker ‘sorry’ for strip on sacred mountain

The British woman jailed for stripping on a sacred Malaysian mountain has returned home to her family and apologised for causing offence.

Eleanor Hawkins. Picture: Facebook
Eleanor Hawkins. Picture: Facebook

Backpacker and university graduate Eleanor Hawkins appeared tearful as she read a statement outside her family home in Draycott, Derbyshire.

She said: “I just want to say how relieved and happy I am to finally be home.

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“I know my behaviour was foolish and I know how much offence we all caused to the local people of Sabah. For that, I am truly sorry.”

It brings to an end an arduous ten days for the aeronautical engineering graduate, who was fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (£859) and sentenced to three days in jail – which she had already served – at a court hearing in Kota Kinabalu on Friday.

The 23-year-old arrived back in the UK yesterday morning.

Her mother Ruth said: “She knows what she did was wrong and disrespectful and she is deeply sorry for any offence caused to the people of Sabah and she has been appropriately and fairly judged by the Malaysian authorities and has served her sentence in full, the case is now closed. We would all now like Eleanor to be given the chance to recover, so we would really appreciate it if you would now afford us some privacy and allow her to get on with her life.

“We would like to thank again the British consulate officials who have support Ellie in Malaysia during this very difficult time.”

Miss Hawkins was arrested with three other backpackers earlier this week for posing naked on Mount Kinabalu, after being blamed by locals for causing an earthquake which killed 18 people.

Miss Hawkins’s father Timothy previously said the sentence his daughter received was “appropriate” and “fair”.

“I’m grateful that the Malaysian authorities reached this decision,” he said.

“Eleanor knows what she did was wrong and disrespectful and she is deeply sorry for any offence she’s caused to the Malaysian people.”

Several other backpackers who appeared in photos taken on the mountain reportedly remain wanted by police.

A magnitude-5.9 earthquake struck the 13,400ft mountain on 5 June, killing 18 people and leaving hundreds more stranded.

Sabah state deputy chief minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan later blamed the quake on the travellers showing “disrespect to the sacred mountain”.

A recent graduate with a masters degree from Southampton University, Miss Hawkins 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.

In recent years the Foreign Office has called on Britons to behave themselves when on holiday.

Asked whether he thought updated foreign travel advice on local laws and customs was successful, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “I hope the message is getting through.”