FIVE men attacked a US Peace Corps volunteer with an axe in Slovenský Raj National Park, demanding money and cigarettes.
Police said the offenders took Sk1,140 from the volunteer, who asked not to be named. The incident happened on March 23 on a trail leading to Kláštorisko - the park's famous ruins of a medieval Carthusian monastery.
Jozef Križalkovič, head of regional Police headquarters in Spišská Nová Ves, said that all five offenders, one of whom is a juvenile, were taken into pre-trial custody and four face charges of armed robbery. If convicted, they could face sentences of five to 12 years. The juvenile is too young to be prosecuted.
The five assailants, who were cutting trees in the park, accosted the volunteer in the early afternoon, asking for money, cigarettes and a backpack containing a camera and several lenses. After refusing their requests, the victim was threatened with an axe, and turned over his wallet, containing Sk1,140. The wallet was then returned without the money.
According to the victim, who has been working with the national park since September 2000: "Unfortunately, I happened to meet five bad people and it's the first bad experience I've had with Slovak citizens in the two years I've been here. It's not the norm, it's an exception."
Križalkovič said this was the first robbery case in the Slovenský Raj national park this year.
"Before the tourist season starts we plan to organise a meeting of local police, mayors and heads of recreational facilities to discuss crime prevention," he said.
He added that during the tourist season, which starts in mid June, police patrols in the most frequented areas of Slovenský Raj will be strengthened.
"I hope this doesn't deter anybody from visiting Slovenský Raj, because that would be a bigger loss than the money. Maybe it will bring more attention to the importance of visitor management. Conservation is the chief reason the park exists, but not far behind that is visitor enjoyment," said the Peace Corps volunteer.