There was fresh hope this week for the families of two teenage girls attacked with acid in Zanzibar last year, as the African island paved the way for British detectives to help catch the perpetrators, writes Sharon Feinstein.
Six months after two men on a scooter threw sulphuric acid over friends Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee as they walked through the streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar authorities have finally issued a letter of assistance, allowing UK police to join the investigation.
Kirstie’s father, Marc Trup, hailed this latest development as “a big step”. He told the Jewish News: “The police situation is a bit like the Madeleine McCann case, but Zanzibar isn’t like a European country so we’ve had to wait a long time for this development.”
“The Foreign Office had to put pressure on the Zanzibar authorities , for which I’m grateful. We hope the document will be here in the next month.”
Marc’s frustration over a lack of progress in the case led to him considering going to Zanzibar himself to track down the culprits. He said: “I thought of flying out there and putting up a reward, but the Foreign Office warned me this wasn’t advisable. We want these people captured.”
“If there is a court case and identification parade there is no question Kirstie would want to be there. I feel very angry with these people, yet I am absolutely powerless to do anything. Up to now, we have been dealing with a local police authority that does things in its own time – if at all.”
Kirstie, who suffered chemical burns to her shoulders and back in the attack, is still recovering following skin grafts. She must wear a pressure vest to protect procedures on her upper body, arms and sides.
Marc said: “It’s very uncomfortable and itchy. But it’s healing. There are no further operations. The injuries will get better over time, but will mark her for life. The scar tissue can’t be seen unless she wears sleeveless tops.”
Katie sustained more serious injuries to her face, hands and chest. Six months on her family is still coming to terms with the horrific attack that took place on the island on 7 August.
Marc said: “The girls had eaten Chinese food every night, but walked past their favourite restaurant to a Kenyan restaurant. Had they gone to their usual place, the attack wouldn’t have happened.”
He added: “The incident was not motivated by them being Jewish. They knew they were going to a Muslim country and were always respectful of the traditions. What made these people do it? Maybe I’ll never know but that’s not going to tear me apart. I can’t live like that.”
Kirstie could’ve fallen apart so easily, but she hasn’t. She’s enjoyed a sheltered life in north-west London and attending JFS. She’s never known anything like this.”
In a shocking coincidence, Marc revealed that his younger brother, Daniel – Kirstie’s uncle – narrowly escaped death in Africa just one month after the acid attack, when he was caught up in the Westgate Kenya mall terrorist attack.
“He was walking out of a café in the mall when the terrorists burst in tossing grenades and firing indiscriminately. He hid in in a cup- board for hours with his wife and six-year-old son. The fact that Kirstie and her uncle were attacked in Africa within one month of each other is mind-boggling.”
Despite her ordeal, Kirstie, who is studying history at university, plans to return to Africa later this year to work with children in a Johannesburg township.
Marc said: “I think we should keep away from Africa, but Kirstie wants to go to South Africa and we can’t stop her.”