New Zealand backpacker lodge owner charged with sexually assaulting drugged tourists

WELLINGTON (AFP) - A New Zealand hotel owner allegedly videotaped himself indecently assaulting at least 16 foreign male tourists after drugging them while they stayed at his backpacker lodge, police said Wednesday.

The police said 56-year-old Michael Harris appeared in court on 39 charges including indecent assault, drugging a victim and making and possessing intimate recordings.

They said the alleged sex attacks were carried out on 16 males aged between 18 and 25 over the past three years at a backpacker lodge in the North Island town of Kaitaia, which is in the popular Northland tourist area. All of the men whom Harris is accused of attacking were international tourists, the police said. They did not release their nationalities.

The backpackers' lodge was identified by the New Zealand Herald as the Main Street Lodge in Kaitaia.

Detective Senior Sergeant Rhys Johnston said there could be more victims and appealed for them to come forward.

"These victims are unlikely to know that something has happened to them, although they may have suspicions," he said.

"We will deal sensitively with them and offer all appropriate support required."