A 21-year-old British woman has been stabbed to death at a backpackers’ hostel in Australia by an attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
The victim has been named by friends as Mia Ayliffe-Chung, from Derbyshire.
A 30-year-old British man – named locally as Tom Jackson from Cheshire – was severely injured in the attack in Home Hill, Queensland, and is in a critical condition.
A French suspect, 29, who allegedly said the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (meaning “God is the greatest”) during the attack, was arrested.
The knife attack took place at Shelley’s Backpackers accommodation at about 11.15pm local time on Tuesday. Miss Ayliffe-Chung, from Derbyshire, was only days into a three-month trip to the country. She had been working as a waitress and with animals on a farm so she could extend her working holiday visa.
Friends have been paying tribute to both Britons since hearing of the attack. Miss Ayliffe-Chung’s ex-boyfriend, Jamison Stead, 23, remembered her as a “beautiful soul” who had “fallen in love with the country and its people”.
The Australian sales rep said: “I can’t quite get my head around what’s happened. Truly devastated, more just disbelief that this has happened. It’s something you hear about but never think that it would happen to someone you were close to.
“She was a beautiful girl who had her whole life ahead of her and we spoke of what the future may hold in store for her and what she wanted to do. It’s sad knowing that she won’t be able to do those things. My heart goes out to her and her family.” Miss Ayliffe-Chung studied childcare at Buxton and Leek College before travelling to Bali and Australia.
Rachel McVeigh, curriculum leader for education and childcare at the college, said: “Mia had a zest for life and was free-spirited, with a keen desire to travel. We are devastated and extremely sorry to hear such tragic news. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Mr Jackson’s parents declined to speak from their home in Congleton, Cheshire.
Queensland deputy police commissioner Steve Gollschewski said all possible motives for the attack were being considered, including criminal and political, as well as the impact of drugs and mental health problems.
He continued: “Initial inquiries indicate that comments which may be construed as being of an extremist nature were made by the alleged offender. It is alleged that the suspect used the phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the attack and when arrested by police.”
Mr Gollschewski added that Miss Ayliffe-Chung was the first person to be attacked and the incident was being treated as a murder case, not a terror attack.
Police said up to 30 people witnessed the “senseless act of violence” in which a 46-year-old local man, named as Grant Scholz, also suffered non life-threatening injuries and a dog was killed.