'Naked backpacker' Eleanor Hawkins in TV apology: 'I was foolish and am truly sorry'
The 23-year-old makes her first statement on the incident after flying back from Malaysia where she was jailed for three days
The female British backpacker who was jailed for stripping on a sacred Malaysian mountain has flown home declaring she has been foolish and is now truly sorry for the prank.
Eleanor Hawkins was reunited with her parents following an overnight flight back from the Far East where she and her companions had caused outcry with their naked prank.
The 23-year-old aeronautical engineering graduate said she was “relieved and happy” to be home as she made her first statement on the incident.
Speaking outside her parents’ house in Draycott, Derbyshire, she said: “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.''
Miss Hawkins backpacking odyssey through South East Asia ended in jail after she and nine other Westerners incurred the anger of Malaysians by stripping on top of Mt Kinabalu - a sacred peak for the local people.
Read more here: Partially naked summit girl on her way home
The former public school head girl and her companions posed for naked photographs near the summit of the 13,435ft mountain on May 30, despite their guide trying to stop them. Locals were enraged when the pictures later emerged. Some blamed the prank for a June 5 earthquake on the mountain, which killed 18 people, saying the tourists had offended spirits that guard the sacred hilltop.
Miss Hawkins, an only child known to her family as Ellie, was arrested and charged with indecency, earning her a three day prison sentence and a 5,000 ringgit (£585) fine.
Read more here: 'Naked tourist' Eleanor Hawkins deported from Malaysia
Her mother, Ruth, said: “We are really relieved to have Ellie home. It had been a very traumatic time for her. Ellie knows what she did was disrespectful. She is sorry for any offence caused to the people of Sabah."
"Ellie has been appropriately and fairly judged by the Malaysian authorities and has served her sentence in full. The case is now closed."
Miss Hawkins had finished her master's degree in aeronautical engineering and set off to travel solo around South East Asia in January. Miss Hawkins had been planning to travel on from Malaysia to Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam before the incident cut her trip short.
Read more here: Naked photo sentence was fair, says Eleanor Hawkins' father
She was ushered out of Malaysia by British officials before she could face trial in a separate native court.
In Borneo there is still anger that the naked tourists have been treated leniently and should have faced trial in the native court
“I’m so angry they have been allowed to leave,” said Nor Azlan, the mountain guide who led with the tourists. “They should be sent back to Malaysia.”
Daikin Anam, the 32-year-old park ranger who made the initial police complaint, agreed, saying he was “disappointed” that they had been freed. “It’s not right,” he said. “They got off too lightly.”
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said he hoped that Government advice that travellers and tourists should heed local cultural sensitivities was getting through.
He said: "It's important that when people go abroad they are sensitive to the environment that they are in, they are sensitive to local cultural norms and aware that things that might seem like rather minor misdemeanours here can cause great offence elsewhere.
"We see this ourselves. We have things that we are very sensitive about - war memorials for example - that may not seem particularly significant to people who don't understand the history and the culture behind them.
"Similarly when we go abroad we should be sensitive to local culture and local concerns."
Read more here: Mount Kinabalu: The sacred - and dangerous - mountain