(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) — Police in St. Lucia have charged six local men with raping two British women who were volunteering on a conservation project on the mountainous Caribbean island, officials said Wednesday.
The six men, who were not identified by investigators, were recently arrested in connection with the May 10 nighttime assault on the two British women, police said in a statement. They are due in court later this month.
The women, ages 24 and 31, were working on a wildlife conservation project with British-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and St. Lucia's Ministry of Agriculture when they were assaulted by six men wearing masks on an isolated stretch of Grande Anse beach, on the island's Atlantic coast.
Resident British High Commissioner Karl Burrows described the attack as "a dreadful crime." He advised British visitors to the island to exercise caution as they would anywhere else, saying that crimes against British tourists were not widespread in tourism-dependent St. Lucia.
"We have about 75,000 British visitors to St. Lucia every year and the vast majority of visits are incident free," Burrows said.
But it was the second attack on visitors here in the last two months.
In early March, three gay American men were attacked and beaten in their vacation home in the southwestern town of Soufriere.
A Ministry of Agriculture official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the government has launched an investigation to determine how the two female volunteers came to be alone on the isolated beach at midnight. Normally, officers from the ministry accompany foreign students undertaking assignments in isolated areas, the official said.
Officials with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.