A British holidaymaker in India, injured after she jumped from a third-floor hotel balcony in the historic tourist town of Agra to escape what she feared would be a sexual assault by a group of men, is to return to Britain, it was reported today.
The woman reportedly leaped from her room to the balcony below her after the owner reportedly tried to force his way into her room to offer her “a free oil body massage”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in touch with a British national and local authorities following an assault in Agra.
"They are now safe and we are offering consular assistance."
The incident comes as India’s much cherished reputation as a welcoming tourist destination has been left reeling by fears of violence towards women following the brutal rape and murder of a local woman on a Delhi bus last year which made international headlines and the more recent gang rape last week of a Swiss tourist as she camped with her husband on a cycling trip.
According to the police the 32-year-old woman, whose identity The Independent has chosen not to disclose, had been staying for the past two days in a hotel located three kilometres from India’s most famous tourist destination the Taj Mahal.
The initial report filed by the police claims that the hotel’s owner, who has been identified by police as Sanjay Chauhan, knocked on the woman's door at 4am saying: “Ma’am, this is your wake-up call and free oil body massage. If you want to get that, you can use it.”
She claims in the report that she refused the offer and shut the door but the owner then kept knocking, insisting that she get a massage.
“After about half an hour, she said he came back with what sounded like more people, and tried to force the door open,” said Senior Superintendent Subhash Dubey, who also contributed to the report.
Fearing a group of men were going to break into her room, the woman panicked. She climbed onto the balcony of her second-floor hotel room, jumped to the floor below and then onto the ground where she made her way to the nearest tourist police station to call for help.
Initial media reports stated that she suffered two broken legs and head injuries. X-rays conducted at a nearby hospital came back negative but doctors said she could have a torn ligament. The woman had originally planned to leave India and travel to China to go trekking but Mr Dubey said that she now wants to return to the UK instead.
“A case of molestation has been registered and the culprit has been arrested,” said Ashutosh Pandey, the Police Inspector General in Agra.
According to local media reports the hotel owner is a native of Delhi. A receptionist at the hotel declined to answer questions on the incident when The Independent phoned. However an unnamed employee told the AFP news agency that the manager had merely tried to wake up the victim in time for an early morning train.
"We don't know what she thought but she jumped out of the window of her room," the employee was quoted as saying.
The alleged attempted attack came on the same day India’s parliament debated an amendment to the country’s rape laws, which would increase the penalties for rape and sexual harassment. There is widespread anger in the country at the high levels of sexual assault and the authorities seeming inability or unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators.
Concerns over the treatment of women in India risks having a knock-on effect on the country’s vital tourism industry which brings in more than $121 billion a year according to the World Travel and Tourism Council and creates an estimated 40 million jobs.
The alleged attack on the British woman comes just days after the horrific gang rape of a Swiss woman on Saturday night in the state of Madhya Pradesh, 200km to the south of Agra. The woman was on a cycling trip with her husband and was brutally assaulted as they camped in woods. Six men have been arrested for the rape.
Yesterday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office amended its travel advisory in light of the assault on the Swiss woman and urged women to take extra care when travelling through India. “Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing,” reads the new advisory.