A French-Algerian man’s apparent infatuation with a British woman has emerged as a focus of a police investigation into her stabbing death at an Australian backpackers hostel as doubts grow about any lone wolf jihadi motive.
Smail Ayad, 29, had met Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, just days earlier as her roommate at the hostel in Home Hill, north Queensland, when he was arrested at the scene of the attack on Tuesday.
Ayad allegedly shouted Allahu Akbar – God is greatest in Arabic – during the attack, in which two men who came to Ayliffe-Chung’s aid were wounded, including a British man with critical injuries.
Body cameras worn by police allegedly recorded him again uttering the phrase when he was arrested at the scene at Shelley’s Backpackers, but French nationals who witnessed the incident have told police Ayad’s shouted speech that was incoherent and nonsensical.
Body cameras worn by police allegedly recorded him again uttering the phrase when he was arrested at the scene at Shelley’s Backpackers, but French nationals who witnessed the incident have told police Ayad’s shouted speech throughout the incident was incoherent and nonsensical.
Investigators to date have not found any evidence of Ayad having links to jihadi groups or even interest in extremist material online.
Ayad, who had been in Australia on a temporary visa since March, allegedly told fellow hostel guests he planned to marry Ayliffe-Chung in the days before the attack.
On Tuesday night, Ayad was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife when he roused Ayliffe-Chung from her bed and hauled her on to a balcony where he repeatedly stabbed her.
A caretaker at the hostel, Grant Schultz, tried to intervene and was wounded in the leg.
Witnesses described Ayad then performing a swan dive from a stairwell before fatally stabbing the dog belonging to John Norris, one of the hostel owners.
Ayad allegedly then pursued the wounded Ayliffe-Chung, who had sought refuge in a bathroom with the aid of a British man, 31.
Ayad allegedly set upon the British man, stabbing him in the eye, head and torso.
The Briton, who has been named by Australian media as Tom Jackson, was still fighting for his life on Wednesday night.
The alleged attack was witnessed by up to 30 onlookers, some of whom are understood to have recorded the incident on their mobile phone cameras.
Ayliffe-Chung’s mother paid tribute to her from England, describing her as an amazing, adventurous and sassy daughter.
Ayliffe-Chung, from Derbyshire in the UK, was days into a three-month stint doing casual labour on farms in the area – a condition by which working holiday makers can extend their visit to Australia.
Home Hill, a sleepy sugar cane town of about 3,000 people, is one of a string of coastal north Queensland towns popular with overseas backpackers, on whose labour the domestic Australian horticulture industry increasingly relies.
Ayliffe-Chung had previously worked six months on the Gold Coast as a bartender at The Bedroom nightclub.
Paying tribute, her half-sister Nicola Chung, told the Guardian: She was bubbly, carefree and had trained to be a nanny, because she loved children.
She was just backpacking. She had been travelling for a year and had arrived in Australia.
Queensland police had sought the involvement of the Australian federal police in the investigation in response to Ayad’s alleged cries of Allah Akbar, which raised suspicions of a possible extremist motive for the attack.
The deputy Queensland police commissioner, Steve Gollschewski, said earlier on Tuesday that authorities were not ruling out any motivations at this early stage, whether they be criminal or political.
But he said issues around mental health or drug misuse would also be examined as a factor in the attacks.
News Source TheGuardianNews