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Locals say Backpacker's death was a tragic ac -

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Locals say Backpacker's death was a tragic accident

The World Today - Monday, 13 October , 2008 12:41:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

ELEANOR HALL: The results from the post mortem on Britt Lapthorne's body will be released tonight
in Croatia.

But even before the official announcement, many locals are making it clear they're convinced the
Melbourne tourist's death was nothing more than a tragic accident.

A fisherman found her body in the Adriatic Sea under a series of 100 metre high cliffs and her
family has raised questions about the injuries.

As Europe correspondent Emma Alberici reports from Dubrovnik.

EMMA ALBERICI: This never happens in Dubrovnik - it's become this medieval town's most popular
refrain repeated to anyone who deigns to mention Britt Lapthorne - first missing person, first dead
tourist, first blight on this perfect post-war landscape.

From the street vendors to the people in the souvenir shops and the restaurants that rely on the
booming tourist trade, all have convinced themselves that this was a tragic accident.

They literally can't afford to imagine that there might be a monster among them.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT: I cannot believe it happens in Dubrovnik. That is the first thing. I don't know
who can do this from Dubrovnik.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 2: I hope it's accident. I hope its accident. Lot of people think it is
accident. That she fell down or the wrong step somewhere close to the water. That's what locals
think and hope in the same time.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: Lot of people think maybe she's drunk. Maybe she ....

EMMA ALBERICI: She fell down?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: Yeah. It is no good for Dubrovnik.

EMMA ALBERICI: Not good for Dubrovnik?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: No.

EMMA ALBERICI: Because it's tourism?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: Yes.

EMMA ALBERICI: Yes.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: But it is first time.

EMMA ALBERICI: First time in Dubrovnik?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 3: Yes.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 4: Tragedy. No, no, not killed. Gone.

EMMA ALBERICI: Not killed?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 4: No.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do you think?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 4: Drink, romantic.

EMMA ALBERICI: And she fell down?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 4: Yes.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 5: For us here is very, very sad story. It is coming many, many tourist time
from outside Croatia and every summer I coming here playing guitar and I never see story like this
story. It's very, very sad story.

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 6: That things don't happen in Dubrovnik. This is first time what has happened
to and I see this year many Australian people coming to Dubrovnik. I hope it will be to the next
year also.

EMMA ALBERICI: You hope that they don't be worried about coming after this?

DUBROVNIK RESIDENT 6: Yes, yes, yes because it is terrible what has happened in our town.

EMMA ALBERICI: And it's terrible what's happened to Britt Lapthorne's family.

It took the Australian Government five days to tell them that their daughter was missing in Croatia
and then they were warned to be careful not to upset the relationship between Canberra and Zagreb.
When they got here, the embassy threatened to take their translator away from them until the media
intervened.

An Australian Federal Police officer was dubbed 'the phantom' after he spent six days in the town
before introducing himself to the family.

In Croatia, authorities posed for pictures with the Lapthornes but stood by while police failed to
speak to crucial witnesses. And worst of all, it was left up to the media to tell the family a body
was found in the water off the coast of Dubrvonik.

When police decided it was probably not Britt Lapthorne, they didn't bother telling her father and
brother that either.

Dale Lapthorne will leave Dubrovnik with his daughter this week.

He suspects there's been foul play involved in her death and he hopes today's autopsy results will
finally give him some straight answers.

In Dubrovnik, this is Emma Alberici for The World Today.