A devastated doctor from the UK has told how she was brutally raped during a Caribbean holiday and then offered a manicure and massage to cheer her up by the company who arranged her women-only break. Georgina Mortimer booked the ‘dream holiday’ to St Lucia with Girls for Sail, a company accredited by the Royal Yachting Association, but says she was attacked in the bedroom of her shared villa within hours of arriving. Now, in a potential landmark case, the 45-year-old is taking action against the holiday company and villa owner for negligence, paving the way for other tourists to sue private property renters.
Mother-of-two Ms Mortimer, who has bravely waived her right to anonymity, said: “I woke up to find myself being strangled and raped by this total stranger. I was terrified. I honestly thought I was going to die. I’d gone on a women only holiday to learn to sail believing I would be safe. I am devastated by what happened and I am going to do what I can to stop any other woman going through this. “I am shocked a company, which claims to empower women by helping them learn to sail without men, has treated a rape victim so badly. My life has been turned upside down. I have horrendous flashbacks and feel traumatised.”
On their website Girls for Sail say they are the ‘only sailing school for ladies’ and they ‘take care of each other and maintain a safe environment’.
It was on the second night of Ms Mortimer’s £2,000 Girls for Sail holiday in February 2016 that her nightmare began. She was staying in one of the four bedrooms at Summer Breeze villa, a RYA accredited sailing training centre, in the hills above Rodney Bay Marina. Ms Mortimer, who has daughters aged 13 and 15, said: “I was not given a key for my bedroom door but two instructors were also staying there and I understood the front door would be locked each night. But I woke to find a monster pinning me down in my bed attacking me, I thought I was going to be murdered.
“The hand on my throat pressed down so hard I thought I was going to pass out. I could hardly breathe let alone scream. I thought of my children and was determined not to die. I lay as quiet as possible because I felt any struggling on my part could anger him enough to kill me. It was around fifteen minutes of hell before someone knocked at the door and my attacker fled.”
The police were called and Ms Mortimer went to hospital to be treated for possible sexually transmitted diseases, HIV bruising and shock.
One of her best friends had planned to join her that day for the remainder of the holiday but was ‘horrified’ when she saw Ms Mortimer.
Fighting back tears Ms Mortimer said: “Girls for Sail even advised me not to tell other women arriving alone what had happened in case it upset them.
“I was in shock. Looking back I should have said something. There was no sign of a break in, it appears he walked straight into the villa but I was made to feel as though I’d done something wrong.
“I couldn’t stay in the villa but they said they’d pay for us to stay in a hotel for one night, but not two.
“I was traumatised, I couldn’t cope being there. Nobody had bothered to contact the British Consulate for me so I did that myself and they organised an emergency flight home for me.”
Back in Hertfordshire, UK, the Accident and Emergency doctor was also horrified to discover there had been similar sexual assaults and rapes in St Lucia – including an attempted rape in a house a few miles away from her villa – but says there were no warnings issued to take additional care.
She said: “I started to get angry. I had gone on a women only holiday; you have an expectation of safety.
“Because of the other incidents they should surely have upped security therefore the villa should have had CCTV and a security guard on duty. They should have at least had self locking doors and told us to be vigilant.”
Letters of complaint were sent to the company and Ms Mortimer expected a refund – instead three weeks later she received a marketing newsletter. She said: “I complained again. This time I got an email saying they were offering me a massage and manicure at my local beauty salon. They’d described it as a little ‘treat’ for me and hoped I found it ‘enjoyable’. As if that would cheer me up. I had been raped under their guard. I was disgusted, insulted.”
Now she has employed lawyers to sue both organisations for negligence, claiming Girls for Sail also failed to report the attack to the RYA. Her solicitor Vidisha Joshi, Partner and Head of Personal Injury, Hodge, Jones and Allen Solicitors in London, said: “This is a professional woman who was attacked in her own bed whilst away on holiday. Tour operators, hotel owners and others in the holiday business have a duty of care to protect their customers.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Yachting Association later said: “The incident did not take place during an RYA accredited training course and the RYA had no involvement in the ownership or provision of the holiday accommodation in which the incident took place.”
Annie O Sullivan, owner of Summer Breeze villa and Girls for Sail said: “We have been a Trip Advisor recommended 4.5 star villa since 2012 and strenuously deny the claims.”