A 21-year-old British woman has died after she was stabbed during an attack at a backpackers’ hostel in Australia.
The victim has been named locally as Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who is believed to be from Derbyshire. A 30-year-old British man was also severely injured in the attack, near Townsville, in Queensland.
A French suspect, 29, who allegedly said the Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar” during the attack, has been arrested. Police said they were investigating a number of possible motivations, including drugs misuse, mental health issues and extremism.
The stabbing took place at Shelley’s Backpackers in Home Hill – a small town which is popular among travellers looking to do agricultural work, such as fruit picking. It is located about 100km south-east of the city of Townsville. The injured man remains in Townsville Base Hospital in a critical condition. A dog was also killed in the attack and a 46-year-old local man sustained minor injuries.
It is understood Miss Ayliffe-Chung travelled to Bali before arriving in Australia. After completing a period of bar work, it is believed she had been working on a farm for three days before she was killed. She had been posting diary entries and pictures on Facebook, sharing her experiences with friends. Amy Browne, 19, from the Gold Coast, who worked as a bartender at the Bedroom Lounge Bar where Miss Ayliffe-Chung was a waitress, said: “Mia was honestly the most bubbliest and most caring girl I knew. “She got along with everyone she met, she just had that gorgeous personality that everyone seemed to enjoy. “She always had a smile on her face, so innocent and full of life and love. Our memories will be cherished forever and I know she’d want us all to stay positive in the darkest of times.”
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the suspect was a visitor to Australia who had been in the country since around March on a temporary visa. He has no known local connections.
Mr Gollschewski said officers were “not ruling out any motivations at this early stage, whether they be political or criminal”. He said the woman was the first person to be attacked and the incident was being treated as a murder case, not a terror attack. “Investigators will also consider whether mental health or drugs misuse factors are involved in this incident,” he added.
Queensland Police described the attack as “a senseless act of violence”. “We don’t have any motive at this stage,” said Detective Superintendent Ray Rohweder on Twitter.
“We’re taking a number of statements in relation to what exactly was said on the evening.”
Meanwhile, British high commissioner to Australia, Menna Rawlings, is travelling to Townsville. “We are working with local authorities and providing support to the families after one British national was killed and another was critically injured in an incident in Australia,” a spokeswoman for the commission said. “Our thoughts are with the families at this difficult time.”