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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 11:28 GMT
Appeal over hostel fire sentence
Childers backpackers' hostel
The fire killed 15 young backpackers
An Australian state governor is to appeal against the "manifestly inadequate" sentence given to the Childers backpackers' hostel arsonist.

Homeless fruit picker Robert Long was found guilty of causing a fire at the Palace Hostel in June 2000.

It killed 15 young travellers, including five from the south of England and two from the Merthyr Tydfil area of south Wales.

Long was sentenced to life imprisonment for two counts of murder and 15 years for arson, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

Robert Long
Long could get parole after 20 years
The 38-year-old could be considered for parole after serving 20 years.

But Queensland state attorney-general Rod Welford says the judge at the trial at Brisbane Supreme Court was wrong not to take into account the deaths of 13 other backpackers in the blaze.

Prosecutors had agreed to charge Long for only two of the deaths to speed up court proceedings.

But Mr Welford said he decided to lodge an official appeal "after careful consideration" on the grounds that:

  • The sentencing judge made "an error" in not taking into account the deaths of the further 13 people
  • The sentence failed to reflect the gravity of the offence
  • The sentence failed to take the issue of deterrence into account

Bereaved parents

The move has been welcomed by the father of one of the two Welsh backpackers killed in the blaze.

Natalie Morris, 28, from Cefn Coed near Merthyr Tydfil, was on holiday with her friend Sarah Williams, 23, from nearby Aberfan, when the pair were trapped in the burning hostel.

Her father, Ken Morris, said he had talked to a number of the other bereaved parents and they all felt Long should be held to account for the other 13 deaths.

Calling for Long to never be freed from prison, he said: "He could be released in 20 years - he would be younger than me."

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Drifter guilty of hostel fire murders
22 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
At the Childers hostel fire trial
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