When bystanders fail

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  • Published 20120306
  • ISBN: 9781921922008
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

WINTER IS A hectic time on Pitcairn Island: the arrowroot crop is ready for harvesting, as are the wild beans that sprout in profusion, clambering over bushes and twining themselves around tree trunks. The sugarcane, too, stands tall in the wind, and once cut has to be processed within days, otherwise it starts to lose its sweetness.

The tin-roofed shed where inhabitants of the South Pacific island gather for this communal task – crushing the cane to extract the juice, then thickening it into a syrup – is on the fringes of Adamstown, Pitcairn’s one, slightly ramshackle village. Swaddling the shed are thickets of banana palms, and it was here, in the mid-1990s, just metres from the whirl of molasses-making, that ten-year-old Belinda was gagged with a T-shirt, held down and raped in turn by two brothers.

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