Tourist arrested over nude photo, blamed for causing quake

A British woman arrested in Malaysia for posing naked on top of a sacred mountain has been named as Eleanor Hawkins.

The 24-year-old Southampton University graduate from Derby was detained on Tuesday at Tawau airport, as she was flying out from the island of Borneo to the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Three others were also arrested on Tuesday after handing themselves in: 23-year-old Canadian Lindsey Peterson and his sister Danielle, 22, and a 23-year-old Dutch man, Dylan Snel.

Another Canadian, 33-year-old Emil Kaminski was arrested on Wednesday. The remaining five were being sought by Malaysian police.

“She’s pretty scared and quite upset,” said her father, Timothy. Mr Hawkins, who a owns a mechanical engineering business in the village of Draycott in Derbyshire told The Telegraph: “We really hope they don’t try to make an example of her.”

And Miss Hawkins had, until this week, been having the time of her life. Recently graduated with a master’s in aeronautical engineering, she was in the middle of an extended trip around South East Asia, to celebrate her degree and relax before finding a job.

Eleanor Hawkins was detained at Tawau airport as she was flying out from the island. Photo / Instagram
Eleanor Hawkins was detained at Tawau airport as she was flying out from the island. Photo / Instagram

She set off on her adventure in January, travelling alone around the region: first Thailand, then Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam. She was planning to continue from Malaysia to Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

“Travelling allows you to explore so many wonderful places, with amazing people, that it makes defining a favourite place pretty difficult,” she said. But she knew she loved Malaysia. “It has proper palm trees and decent sunsets. It’s pretty damn amazing.”

The trouble began on May 30 when she set out to climb the 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. The tour was organised by Jungle Jack Backpackers Lodge, a popular budget hostel less than a mile from the entrance to the Kinabalu national park.

“Around 7am, while the group were on their way back from the summit, they started to strip off their clothes – ignoring their guide,” said the official complaint, obtained by The Telegraph. “The guide warned them not to do so, but they replied: ‘Stupid man, go to hell.’

“He could not stop them. They even took a group photo and a selfie. Then they dressed and returned to the backpacker lodge.”

The police complaint, made by a park ranger from the local Dasun ethnic group, among others, was handed over on June 2. On Tuesday, Miss Hawkins was arrested. The three Canadians and Dutchman handed themselves in shortly after; a German man, named locally as Stephan Pohlner, is still being sought. The other five tourists are wanted but their names are not known.

The group of people who undressed and posed for photos on Mount Kinabalu. Photo / via YouTube / Emil Kaminski
The group of people who undressed and posed for photos on Mount Kinabalu. Photo / via YouTube / Emil Kaminski

“I don’t know why she did it, but when you’re young these things happen,” said Mr Hawkins. “Who can honestly say they’ve never done something silly at that age?

“I’m not dismissing it as completely trivial. But it’s just something many of us have done in a mad drunken moment, that young people do on holidays every year, and have got away with. They were 4,000 feet up a mountain with no one else around.

“There have been reports in Malaysia that they also urinated or insulted their guide, but I don’t believe that at all. Eleanor just isn’t like that. She is mortified that she might have offended people.”

Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, the deputy first minister of neighbouring Sarawak state, also blamed the tourists for the earthquake and said they deserve to be punished.

He told state media: “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.

“If we go to a mountain, 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.”

Tribal elders have called for the case to also go before a native court.

“To appease the mountain protector, the 10 western tourists who stripped and urinated on Mount Kinabalu should be fined 10 head of buffalo, according to local customs,” said Tindarama Aman Sirom Simbuna. He said the fee was more than the usual fine of 10 chickens or one pig. “According to local beliefs, the spirit of the mountain is very angry. The tourists who angered the guardian of the mountain should pay for their mistakes by giving ‘sogit’ (a peace offering),” he said.

The five are expected to appear before the court again on Monday, where they will find out if they are to face charges.

Mr Cham accused local state officials of of stoking a public backlash against the tourists.

He said: “I ask the court they be held in separate custody from other detainees. Because of the sentiment in this case, we want to protect their safety. People are laying blame on them for offending the mountain. There is a lot of stupidity involved and unfortunately politicians have jumped on the bandwagon to condemn them for causing the earthquake, which is ridiculous.”

One of the five, 33-year-old Emil Kaminski, has done little to mitigate his case.

Kaminski, a blogger and adventure tourism organiser from Winnipeg, is thought to be the man who headed the group of 10. A Singapore newspaper, New Straits Times, described him as “the notorious Canadian nudist” and said on Wednesday he had been arrested, “arriving in the clutches of police after four of his accomplices were detained.”

He is facing charges of indecent exposure, and possible further charges for insults on local culture and the people through his social media postings and comments.

Kaminski, who describes himself as “perpetual backpacker”, posted a photo on his Facebook page showing the naked tourists.

Masidi Manjun, the tourism minister for Sabah province, said that a June 5 earthquake in the area was a sign that the mountain was angry.

And Kaminski, who on his Twitter page says he offers a “no-bullshit, often offensive, earthy essence of backpacking experience” lashed out at Mr Manjun.

He described the minister as “a deranged prick, and a regressive, and taking Malaysia back hundreds of years.”

Hours previously, he recorded a video commentary for his website, in which he ridiculed the outpouring of anger at the naked photos, saying: “Jesus Christ people, it’s just a f—— mountain.”

He said: “I put up a photo, or a link to an article, about the tourism minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah, one Masidi Manjun, who publicly linked the June 5 earthquake which killed 18 people and stranded some 200 – he linked that to a bunch of trekkers who stripped down and got naked on top of Mount Kinabalu, which it turns out is ‘a sacred mountain’,” he said, mockingly pronouncing the word “sacred”.

“I put that up, and I included three photos of myself on mountain tops, and of course all hell broke loose.

“I was not insulting Malaysia, I was not making any references to all those people who died – I was simply insulting the minister, because to say something that ——- stupid… You really need to lobotomise yourself on a piece of heavy machinery. I mean, how do you get to be that far up in government if you don’t know anything about plate techtonics, seismology, about geology – have you even heard these words?”

He said that “hundreds of thousands of people got deranged” and he received “thousands of poorly-spelt death threats.”

He then began reading out some of the comments.

Mr Manjun tried to take the moral high ground, telling his Twitter followers to ignore the Canadian’s insulting of their beliefs.

Yet others were quick to point out that Kaminski has a history of provocations.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he wrote on Facebook: “We are free to burn the Koran or any other book, as much as we are free to read any book. F— you for disagreeing.”

On his website, where he goes by the moniker Monkeetime, he actively encourages travellers to challenge local beliefs.

“We are often told to travel, but then to just brainlessly conform to local cultures, customs, not question anything,” he wrote.

“That is the biggest serving of bullshit you could possibly step in. Question everything, judge everything, see what works, see what doesn’t. All this learning, as any learning, should be fun, and all fun, as long as safe, should be unbridled.

“There is no censorship on the Monkeetime page on youtube, and there certainly is no self-censorship in the Monkeeverse.”

Hours before his arrest, he crowed on Facebook about the “s——-” of a town he was staying in, while he waited for the scandal to blow over.

But, he added, it was lucky the “dumbasses” searching for him had “no internet and no idea”.

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