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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 05:01 GMT 06:01 UK
Australia inquest on hostel fire
Palace Hostel ruins, Childers, Queensland
Six Britons were among 15 killed in the arson at the hostel in 2000
An inquest has begun into whether any further charges should be laid over an arson attack than killed 15 people in eastern Australia six years ago.

A policeman told the hearing that the windows of the building which caught fire had been barred and exits blocked.

The blaze, at a backpackers hostel in Childers, Queensland, claimed the lives of 15 tourists including six Britons.

Fruit picker Robert Long has already been found guilty of murder and arson, and sentenced to life in jail.

But relatives of the victims claim that poor safety procedures contributed to the magnitude of the disaster.

Exit blocked

Young travellers from Britain, Australia, Ireland, Japan, South Korea and Holland were killed in the blaze at the Palace Backpackers Hostel in June 2000.

Robert Long is already serving a life sentence - with a minimum of 20 years behind bars - for starting the fire.

But this inquest will determine whether anyone else should be charged over the deaths.

Alan MacSporran, the lawyer assisting the coroner, told reporters that the inquest would look at whether the hostel had adequate fire safety measures.

Twenty witnesses are due to give evidence.

The inquest has already heard from a police officer who said that in a room where nine bodies were found, a bunk bed was blocking an exit and the windows were barred.

The hostel's owners and managers are expected to give evidence later.

Coroner Michael Barnes has said he will also examine whether tougher fire safety regulations introduced in the aftermath of the tragedy have gone far enough.

Local mayor Bill Trevor said local people were not looking forward to the inquest.

"Obviously the coroner has got a job to do and he's got to finalise that job, so unfortunately we're all part of that," he told ABC news.

"It is still something that is poignant in the community and having it all come rushing back with the coroner being here is certainly something that will bring a lot of memories back to a lot of people."




SEE ALSO
Hostel inquest to look at charges
24 Feb 06 |  South East Wales
Hostel fire families seek compensation
19 Dec 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Crime that scarred Australia
15 Mar 02 |  Asia-Pacific

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