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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Backpacker killed in Australia
Bridge in Bundaberg
Police believe Caroline Stuttle was thrown from the bridge
A British backpacker has been found dead in a small Australian town.

The body of Caroline Ann Stuttle, 19, from York, was found under a bridge in the town of Bundaberg, 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Brisbane, on Wednesday evening.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Police said officers believed the teenager had been robbed and then thrown from the 65ft-high bridge.

Caroline Stuttle
Ms Stuttle was travelling before starting university

Ms Stuttle had been travelling in Australia with a friend, Sarah Holiday, for a couple of months but had only been in Bundaberg for two days, police said.

She is believed to have been attacked as she walked back in darkness to a caravan park after telephoning her boyfriend in England from a phone box.

Screams

When she did not return to the caravan park where they were staying, Ms Holiday contacted the police.

Three young men were reportedly seen under the bridge earlier in the evening and police are appealing for information.


We've lost such a beautiful, lively young girl

Dave Marks, family friend

The police spokeswoman said an anonymous caller had reported hearing screams in the area.

She added: "There was no evidence that she had been sexually assaulted or shot or stabbed.

"The investigation is focusing on the possibility she was robbed and died from injuries suffered from being thrown from the bridge."

Ms Stuttle's mobile phone and handbag, containing some cash and credit cards, have not been found.

Tourist hotspot

Speaking outside Ms Stuttle's home in Huntington Road, York, family friend Dave Marks, 55, said the family was "totally devastated".

He said her mother Marjorie, who is divorced from the teenager's father Alan, was "inconsolable".

He said: "Caroline was a lovely girl, a beautiful girl and very easy going, combine that with very clever and it's just a tragedy at that age that her life has been snuffed out when she had everything to live for."

map
Ms Stuttle had only been in Bundaberg for a few days

A sign in the window of Mr Stuttle's art gallery in Micklegate, York, informed customers that it was shut on Thursday "due to a family bereavement".

Ms Stuttle was due to start a psychology course at Manchester University when she returned to the UK.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out on Friday.

Hostel fire

Bundaberg is near the Great Barrier Reef and is promoted as a tourist destination.

Justin Grogan, 29, son of the owner of Riverdale Caravan Park where the women were staying, said the whole town was in shock.

"The mood everywhere is very sombre and everyone is devastated," he said.

"They were two lovely girls who were enjoying their travelling and enjoying the sun."

Picture courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The body was found under a high bridge

Her A-level teacher Bridget Vincent said she was "quietly confident about life" and had a "can do" attitude.

"She had spirit and going off backpacking demonstrated that," she added.

The news of Ms Stuttle's death comes as a man convicted of arson and murder after a fire at an Australian hostel lodged an appeal against his conviction.

Backpacking tragedies

Robert Long was found guilty last month of starting the fire at the Palace Hostel in Childers, Queensland, just 47 km (30 miles) from Bundaberg, in June 2000.

A total of 15 young travellers - including seven Britons - died in the blaze.

In July last year another British backpacker, Peter Falconio, went missing in the Australian outback.

The incident happened in July when the van in which he and his girlfriend Joanne Lees were travelling was stopped on a remote road in the outback.

Miss Lees was tied up and managed to escape unhurt but her 28-year-old boyfriend is presumed dead.

In Thailand last Saturday, the body of 26-year-old Briton Jayne Nixon was discovered in a Bangkok backpackers' hotel.

A post mortem examination revealed she had died from "a cocktail of drugs and alcohol".

Meanwhile the investigation into the rape and murder of Welsh backpacker Kirsty Jones in Thailand is continuing.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"Robbery may have been a motive"
See also:

11 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Mar 02 | England
12 Feb 02 | Wales
Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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