A French national is in police custody after the murder of a 21-year-old British woman in a frenzied knife attack at a backpacker hostel in Far North Queensland that was witnessed by dozens of people – and also resulted in a dog being killed.
A 30-year-old man, also British, was taken to hospital in Townsville for treatment, while another man suffered minor injuries.
The suspect was heard shouting “Allahu Akhbar” during the attack and the Australian Federal Police has been called to investigate any links between the suspect and terrorist groups.
The victim has been named as Mia Ayliffe-Chung, a waitress who lived on the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast Bulletin reports she had only been in the Townsville area for 10 days, and had travelled to the area to do some farm work which would enable her to extend her Australian working visa. She reportedly planned to return to the Gold Coast, where she worked at a nightclub called The Bedroom in Surfers Paradise.
Police said the man appeared to have acted alone and was a visitor to Australia with no known local connections, but noted that “comments that may be construed of being of an extremist nature were made by the alleged offender” during the attack, which happened in a hostel in the town of Home Hill, about 1,200km north of Brisbane.
“While this information will be factored into the investigation we are not ruling out any motivations at this early stage whether they be political or criminal,” said Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski.
“Investigators will also consider whether mental health or drug misuse are factors in this incident.”
Gollschewski said police weren’t looking for anyone else. No charges have been laid against the French national being held.
“While this matter is being treated as a homicide, the Queensland Police Service will continue to work with its federal counterparts in relation to the investigation,” Gollschewski said.
Police were initially called to the today taking statements from 30 witnesses at the scene.
The Townsville Bulletin reports the British High Commission has sent staff to Townsville and would be “working with local authorities and providing support to the families”.
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