Queensland stabbing: Frenchman who attacked British woman at hostel may have been 'obsessed' with her

Smail Ayad is due in court over the murder of Mia Ayliffe-Chung

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 25 August 2016 08:38
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Mia Ayliffe-Chung died at the Shelley Backpacker's Hostel in Home Hill, Queensland
Mia Ayliffe-Chung died at the Shelley Backpacker's Hostel in Home Hill, Queensland

A Frenchman who stabbed a 21-year-old British woman at an Australian hostel was reportedly infatuated with her.

Smail Ayad, 29, was charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, one count of animal cruelty and 12 counts of serious assault after he stabbed Mia Ayliffe-Chung while screaming “Allahu Akbar” at the Shelley’s Backpackers hostel in Home Hill, Queensland, on Tuesday evening.

He also attacked British tourist Tom Jackson after he “selflessly” rushed to her aid.

The 30-year-old from Congleton in Cheshire is currently in a critical condition in hospital after suffering wounds to the head, chest and stomach.

He remained “very ill” on Wednesday evening and his father is due to fly out to be with him in hospital.

A 46-year-old hostel worker, Grant Scholz, was also stabbed in the leg as he tried to help but has since been released from hospital. A third British backpacker, 21-year-old Chris Porter, is being treated for wounds to his ankles.

A dog living at the hostel was also killed in the attack.

Hostel owner John “Nugget” Norris told Australian news channel 9News that Ayad had become infatuated with Ms Ayliffe-Chung.

He had reportedly followed her around since she arrived at the hostel eight days earlier to work as a fruit picker, a visa requirement she was seeking to fulfill.

Mr Norris said that Mr Ayad, a former kickboxer, showed no sign of Islamic extremism.

Queensland police confirmed they were not treating the attack as a terrorist incident.

Local newspaper, the Townsville Bulletin, said Ayad had told the other backpackers that he and Ms Ayliffe-Chung were “deeply in love” and had become enraged when he realised his feelings were unreciprocated.

Superintendent Ray Rohweder of Queensland Police said they were exploring the possibility that Ayad had an unrequited romantic interest or “obsession” with Ms Ayliffe-Chung.

He also said there was an indication that Ayad had taken cannabis on Tuesday evening before the attack.

Police said he would appear at Townsville Magistrates Court on Friday.

Ayad will appear by videolink in court as there were a "number of concerns in relation to both officer and public safety", Mr Rohweder said at a press conference.

Forensic officers at the hostel in Queensland

The 12 serious assaults he has been charged with are in relation to 12 separate police officers, he said.

Police said he has had access to legal representation and the French consulate and had declined to be interviewed.

Ms Ayliffe-Chung's post-mortem examination found her cause of death to be multiple stab wounds.

British High Commissioner to Australia Menna Rawlings visited Home Hill to provide support to Britons involved in the attack.

She tweeted a picture of herself laying flowers and said: "Visited Ayr and Home Hill with consular staff to meet local police and UK nationals. Deep sympathy to all affected."

Additional reporting by AP

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