British backpacker 'raped and kept captive at locations across Queensland for several weeks'

Jonathan Pearlman
Police pulled over the car on the Warrego Highway at Mitchell, Queensland - Google street view

A 22-year-old British backpacker was allegedly held hostage in the Australian outback for two months and repeatedly raped, beaten and strangled before being rescued by police in a routine job after she failed to pay for petrol.

The court in Roma, a town near Mitchell, heard on Monday that the woman was taken captive by a 22-year-old man after the pair met in the Queensland coastal city of Cairns and agreed to go on a road trip.

The man allegedly held her between January 2 and March 5 at various locations across Queensland.

Detective inspector Paul Hart told the press on Tuesday that police believe the tourist and the man met in Cairns in January. He said that the two had a relationship "but at some point that had soured and he had basically deprived her of her liberty."

Mr Hart said that police believe that during the course of their travels, which included stops in Gordenvale, just south of Cairns, and Bowen, "a number of very serious offences have occurred." He said that the fact that they were in a relationship makes the matter also a case of domestic violence.

The tourist, who had been in Australia since 2015, was rescued after police stopped a four-wheel-drive, reported to be a white Mitsubishi Pajero, on Sunday near the outback town of Mitchell, a small rural town about 900 miles south of Cairns.

Police said they noticed that she was "visibly distressed and had injuries to her face".

"It appears she was terrified and not able to hide that," police said.

The man was later allegedly found hiding in a storage alcove built in the back of the car.

Mr Hart said the alleged offender was found hiding in a storage alcove built in the back of the car.

Queensland police stopped the woman as part of a routine traffic investigation on the Warrego Highway at Mitchell, 570km west of BrisbaneCredit: OpenStreetMap

The man, who lived in Cairns, faced court on charges including four counts of rape, eight counts of assault, four counts of strangulation, and two of deprivation of liberty. He is also facing drug charges.

The man's name was Marcus Martin, the court told The Telegraph, adding that he is being held in jail in Queensland. He applied for bail but was refused, the court said.

Mr Hart said that the victim sustained facial fractures, scratches and abrasions to the neck area and other bruising consistent with the offences she outlined to police.

"We have potentially saved this girl's life" the detective said, as he went on praising the woman for the courage shown in disclosing the details of her ordeal.

"It has taken great courage for our victim to provide the detail that she has."

Police also revealed that they believe the man damaged the backpacker's passport, she will probably remain in Australia at least until she replaces it.

Mr Hart told the press that the woman had spoken to people "who are close to her in Australia" as well as to her family in the UK.

"We would certainly say that what's happened to this lady is quite catastrophic so there are numerous supports that are being put in place to help her out during this period," Mr Hart told ABC News.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission told ABC News: "We are supporting a British woman following an incident in Queensland and remain in contact with the local authorities."

Police said that they stopped the car in a "routine job" after a petrol station worker told them that she had left without paying for fuel. 

A service station worker has told the Daily Mail Australia that the British backpacker walked into a nearby petrol station with two black eyes and marks on her throat minutes before being stopped by police.

The woman, who was not named by the Mail, said the backpacker was distressed as she could not pay for the tank of petrol she had just put in the car.

The female worker said the woman was crying and "shaking uncontrollably".

"She had only just come in here and she couldn't pay for the fuel," the woman told the Mail, adding that during their ten-minute interaction she asked what had happened and offered to call police on her behalf. 

At that point the backpacker got back in her car and took off, the worker said. 

She told the Mail that she followed the car as she didn't get the plate and when she saw Mitchell police doing random breath tests she told them about the woman leaving without paying. 

Police said they pulled the car over about 15 minutes drive from town up the Warrego Highway.

The man will be held in custody and is due to face court next week, police said.

The incident follows a case in December, in which Mary Kate Heys, a 20-year-old backpacker from Manchester, was taken on a bizarre road trip by a 22-year-old Swedish backpacker. 

She pretended to use her phone to give the driver directions but instead sent texts to her father in Manchester who shared her locations with local police. The man, who apparently suffered mental health problems, was due to be deported.

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