U.S. woman says she broke back escaping Thai sex attacker

BANGKOK -- An American tourist was recovering Wednesday in a hospital in Thailand after breaking her spine while tumbling down a cliff trying to escape from a man who allegedly was molesting her.

The 23-year-old woman was attacked last Thursday in the southern seaside province of Krabi, a popular tourist destination, police said.

British tabloid The Daily Mail published an extensive interview with the victim, identified as Hannah Gavios of Bayside, New York, saying she had waived her right to anonymity as the victim of an alleged sex crime.

She recounts in detail to the newspaper, as she told police, that a man who offered to help guide her back to her hotel at night took her down a remote path and allegedly tried to remove her clothes.

She said she fought back, biting his ear before running away, only to plunge down a 150-foot cliff.

‘While we were walking he grabbed me and was holding me down and trying to take off my clothes… I started punching him in the face and beating him up and biting off his ear. I was biting his ear so hard it almost came off. His ear was half torn off,” the Daily Mail quoted Gavios as saying.

She told the newspaper that he continued to pursue her so she ran off in the direction from which they had come, but running blindly in the dark, she fell of the cliff.

“It was pitch black and before I knew it I was in mid-air falling off a cliff. I was honestly thinking I wouldn’t survive,” she told the Mail.

Gavios was found by rescuers the next morning and was recovering after surgery in Phuket.

According to Krabi Tourist Police Inspector Attapong Sanjaiwut, the alleged attacker said that the account of sexual assault was a misunderstanding, and that he stayed by the woman’s side part of the night and called rescuers in the morning.

Speaking to the Mail, Gavios acknowledged that her attacker came down to where she had fallen and remained with her for much of the night, but that while he appeared to feel guilty, he also continued his alleged attack.

“I was begging him to call for help. He got on the phone and started calling and I thought somebody was coming but nobody came,” the newspaper quoted her as saying from her hospital bed. “I was stuck with this crazy person. I was in the woods in the bushes with wild snakes crawling on me while he was still continuing to harass me... He didn’t rape me but he did everything else. I really thought I was going to die.”

Police have detained the alleged attacker, identified by the Daily Mail as a local 28-year-old man, who faces 5 to 20 years in prison if convicted of causing serious injury and obscene behavior toward another person.

Attapong said police sent an initial report Wednesday to prosecutors, who are waiting to take testimony from the victim before she leaves Thailand. He suggested the woman might be able to leave for the United States in about 10 days.

Thailand welcomed almost 30 million foreign visitors last year, and tourism is one of the country’s important revenue earners.