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The BBC's Damien Grammaticas
"His common-law wife said he had set fire to a caravan in which she was sleeping"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Hostel arson suspect sighted
Palace Backpackers Hostel
All 15 bodies have been removed from the hostel
Police in Australia are searching through the night for the man they want to question about a hostel fire that killed 15 backpackers.

They are using a helicopter and dogs to scour woodland just a few miles from the scene of Friday's blaze at the Palace Backpackers' Hostel in Childers, Queensland.

The search follows a confirmed sighting of 37-year-old Robert Paul Long in the area in the early hours of Tuesday.
Police and tracker dogs
Police step up the hunt for Mr Long

Police have not formally described Mr Long as a suspect, but they have launched an arson investigation and say they want to question Mr Long as part of their inquiries.

They are also investigating an apparent suicide note left in a bar in the town of Childers, which is thought to have been written by Mr Long.

Caravan fire

Meanwhile, Mr Long's common-law wife Christine Campbell has said he once tried to set fire to a caravan in which she was sleeping with her three children.
Christine Campbell and daughter Kirra
Former partner Christine says Mr Long set fire to caravan

Ms Campbell - speaking on Australian television - also claimed Mr Long attacked her on another occasion with a pair of scissors and said he had a history of psychiatric problems.

In 1993 he appeared in court in Queensland after abducting Ms Campbell's six-year-old daughter and attempting to strangle her.

He was later sentenced to four years for attempted murder, assault and burglary.

Reports say Mr Long bore a grudge against the backpackers' hostel which had thrown him out for not paying for his lodgings.

His parents have made an emotional television plea to their son to contact the police.

Bodies

All 15 bodies have now been recovered from the gutted hostel and taken to Brisbane for formal identification.

Australian emergency numbers
++61 7 4126 2222
++ 61 7 3364 3561

As police continued to search for clues, Britain's Princess Anne announced on Tuesday she would visit Childers to meet survivors.

The princess, who is due in Australia for functions as president of the British Olympic Association, is expected to arrive on Sunday.

A partial list of the 15 people who died in the fire has been issued by police.

Five of the Britons who died were Natalie Morris and Sarah Williams of Aberfan, Wales, Gary Sutton and Michael Lewis of Bristol, and Melissa Smith.
Richard Long's father Syd Long
Father Syd Long: Appealing for his son to get in contact

Police also named 22-year-old twins Stacey and Kelly Starke, from Western Australia, Atsushi Toyono of Naruto City, Japan, Julie O'Keefe of Limerick, Ireland, and Joly van der Velden and Sebastien Westerfield from the Netherlands.

Two other Australian victims, a Korean and a Briton have yet to be identified.

British backpacker Nicola Morgan was initially named among the dead, but she approached police on Monday to say she was alive, officials said.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned. Police said most of the dead were found huddled in one room in the back top floor of the hostel.

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See also:

26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Arson suspect 'left suicide note'
26 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Dead' backpacker turns up alive
25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hostel fire victims remembered
24 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Man sought over hostel blaze
23 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
'No alarms sounded' in blaze hostel
23 Jun 00 | Scotland
Scot survives backpacker blaze
02 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's fatal attractions
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