Besieged gunman vows fight to death: Five killed during Australia shootings

AUSTRALIANS were confronted last night with the latest in a spate of mass killings when two fugitives surrendered after a siege at a remote farmhouse, but a third vowed he would fight to the death. The gunmen had allegedly murdered five people.

It was the country's sixth mass shooting spree in six years, leaving a trail of 39 deaths. There were calls last night for strict controls on gun ownership in the wake of public outrage at the killings. Gun laws have been tightened since earlier shootings, but they have failed to stem an alarming spread of firearms in a country that once shunned them.

One in four Australians now owns a gun, up from one in six 13 years ago. Further attempts to restrict firearms in Australia are being fought by a politically powerful gun lobby centred on sporting groups and farmers.

Most of the earlier mass shootings happened in crowded streets and shopping malls in Sydney and Melbourne, prompting demands that firearms be banned from cities. Yesterday's drama differed from the others in that it involved three men on a desperate chase through country roads, towns and highways pursued by police across three states.

The spree ended last night when two of the men gave themselves up and the other was cornered by police in the deserted farmhouse of a cattle property at Hanging Rock in northern New South Wales. There was a twist to the climax when television journalists reporters phoned the fugitives and played tapes of their conversations on news broadcasts.

Where the men came from remained a mystery, but they left five bodies along their trail. The first was that of a 14-year-old pregnant girl, whose charred remains were found on a southern Queensland farm on Sunday. Yesterday, three miners were found shot dead, two later hurled over a cliff, at Armidale, a town near Hanging Rock. The fifth victim, a helicopter mechanic, was murdered last week near Mount Isa in Queensland.

Two of the fugitives, Leonard Leadbeater, 41, and Robert Steele, 22, described themselves in the television conversations as psychopaths and 'sociopaths' who had 'homicidal and suicidal urges'.

The men took two children as hostages after the girl's killing, but released them from the farmhouse yesterday. Raymond Bassett, 25, surrendered before the children were released, and Robert Steele gave up several hours afterwards. But Mr Leadbeater said: 'I don't kill people under 12 . . . I'd rather be down in South Australia killing cops. I ain't going out without a fight. I'm going to make sure they kill me.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific