One more incident we didn’t need

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 14 February 2017, 12:00AM

And so once again we have seen another story of how an escaped convict has ruined the Samoa experience for a visitor to this country. 

This time, the victim is a Norwegian woman who had been working in Samoa and loving every moment of it until that forgettable day up at the scenic Mt. Vaea trail when she ran into a prisoner, Daniel Vailopa, who had escaped and found his way up there.

The details of the incident are chilling enough just thinking about it. From what the Court was told, the defendant and three fellow prisoners had escaped from prison and stayed at an abandoned house at Mt. Vaea the night before.

When the woman, whose name and identity is being suppressed, went for her routine hike, she was confronted Vailopa on her way back down.

The prisoner had chased after her and attempted to kiss the woman, who resisted him. During the struggle, the woman’s phone somehow slipped out. 

It diverted Vailopa’s attention and it made him let go of her hand as he became interested in the phone. This allowed the woman to run from the prisoner, screaming for help. 

At this point, we are grateful she is alive and that she managed to free herself. 

Imagine if she wasn’t able to do that? Imagine if he had somehow managed to push her down that steep hill? She could have been killed.

Anyone who has been up the trail will tell you that it’s a beautiful place but it has got to be one of the most dangerous places to fall. 

And yet that’s precisely what could have happened to this innocent woman who did not deserve what happened to her. 

The Mt. Vaea trail is one of the most iconic trails in Samoa and a must do for tourists. But this prisoner’s behaviour will no doubt make many woman think twice about going up there. Which is sad but unfortunately in Samoa today, that is the reality.

Keep in mind that this is not the only incident up on those beautiful walking trails. At the beginning of this year, women and young females were urged to ensure they always have someone to accompany them when they hike up Palisi or the Robert Louis Stevenson trail.

The warning came after another frightening incident where a middle-aged female was attacked while hiking up Palisi.

A source told the Weekend Observer the woman, who is a prominent member of the business community, was lucky to have been heard by other hikers when she was attacked. The source said the attacker came out of nowhere and tried to rape the woman. When he realised that he couldn’t, he punched the woman and fled into the bush.

Following news, a regular hiker up both mountains who wanted to be identified only as Peter said the attack should provide another warning for women and females not to trek up by themselves.

 “It’s genuinely safe but I wouldn’t allow my daughter to go up there by herself,” Peter said. 

“There have been a few incidents up there now involving women who were either attacked or harassed and I think this should ring the alarm bells for everyone.

 “It’s such a pity because it is one of the best hikes on the island. But we live in a world where there are many nasty things happening and more and more we are seeing girls attacked up there. 

 “So I would recommend for girls and women to always ensure they have company.”

We couldn’t agree more with Peter. Girls and women should not be left on their own on the trail. We encourage women and girls to always ensure they hike up in groups.

Now last week, prisoner Daniel Vailopa was handed three more years at Tafa’igata by Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren. During sentencing, Justice Tafaoimalo said the ordeal was violent and terrifying in nature for the victim. 

One of the worst aspects for Samoa is the damage Vailopa has done to all the hard work by the government and everyone involved in the tourism industry to promote Samoa as a safe destination for all.

This is yet another sad case for Samoa. 

One the struggling tourism industry in this country did not need.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 14 February 2017, 12:00AM

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