Eleanor Hawkins, 23, from Derby, was one of 10 westerners – including three Canadians – who posed naked for photographs on top of Mount Kinabalu just six days before a devastating quake killed at least 16 people.
After being driven to court in balaclavas to protect their identities, Eleanor, Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, and Dutchman Dylan Snel admitted causing a public disturbance in court.
She was arrested at an airport in Borneo on Tuesday while trying to board a plane to Kuala Lumpur, and has appeared in court charged with indecency and “upsetting the gods”. Canadian siblings Lindsey Petersen, 22, and Danielle Petersen, 23, plus Dutch national Dylan Snel, 23, appeared alongside her after turning themselves in.
A third Canadian, Emil Kaminski, 33, believed to be the group’s tour guide, has also been arrested, and police are still searching for the other suspects.
The tourists potentially face three months in jail after offending locals who are convinced that their nude antics angered the mountain spirits – resulting in the 5.9 magnitude earthquake which claimed the lives of a dozen students and at least one teacher on a school trip.
Eleanor’s father, Tim Hawkins, told the Mirror that his daughter – who has a degree in aeronautical engineering from Southampton University – was “scared and shocked” to be locked up.
“I’d like to appeal to the Malaysian authorities to punish the crime, and not take into account the unfortunate and tragic circumstances that followed it – because they are not related,” he said.
Images of the climbers posted on social media sparked fury in Malaysia, with some Facebook users threatening to kill the tourists. Joseph Pairin Kitingan, deputy chief minister of Sabah state, in Borneo, blamed the tragedy on the foreigners for “showing disrespect to the sacred mountain” when they posed naked. He told local media a special ritual would be conducted to “appease the mountain spirit”.