Pitcairn mayor treated girls like 'harem'

October 5, 2004

The Age

The man who became mayor of Pitcairn Island treated the women on the remote British territory like his own "harem", according to a woman giving evidence today.

The woman has accused 53-year-old Steve Christian of raping her twice.

Christian, the mayor and most prominent member of Pitcairn's permanent population of 47 people, has pleaded not guilty to six charges of rape and four of indecent assault on four women over the period 1964 to 1975.

The tiny Pacific island is home to descendants of the 18th century mutineers from the British HMS Bounty.

A woman speaking by video link from Auckland, New Zealand, today - Sunday in Pitcairn - said that when she was a girl, Christian took her for a ride on his motorbike and raped her.

The second time he allegedly raped her was in one of the island's boats, she said.

Defence attorneys suggested to the woman that she had never had non-consensual sex with Christian.

She denied that and in a statement to police said Christian treated island girls "like we were all his harem".

The trials of three Pitcairn men are under way in two makeshift courtrooms in the island's community hall.

In total, seven island men face 55 sex abuse charges dating back up to 40 years.

The trials, under British law before New Zealand judges, are expected to take six weeks.

Some islanders claim that if the men are convicted and imprisoned, they will no longer have enough men on the island to crew longboats that are the only way to bring vital supplies to the island from passing freight and cruise ships. Pitcairn has no airstrip or port.

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of five rocky volcanic outcrops - only the largest of which is inhabited - with a combined area of just 47 sq km.

They are 14,885km from London, in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Peru.

The trial continues.