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 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” during the attack, was arrested.
Police are treating the incident as a murder case, not a terror attack.
They are investigating a number of possible motivations, including drugs misuse, mental health issues and extremism.
The stabbing took place at 23:15 local time on Tuesday at Shelley’s Backpackers in Home Hill.
The small town – about 100km (60 miles) south-east of the city of Townsville – is popular among travellers looking to do agricultural work, such as fruit picking.
Miss Ayliffe-Chung had lived in Surfers Paradise, on Australia’s Gold Coast, and worked as a waitress at the Bedroom Lounge Bar before making an 800-mile trip north to work outdoors.
She was just days into a three-month trip working with animals when she was killed.
Her latest Facebook update was on August 20, four days after starting work on the farm.
Jamison Stead, who had been in a relationship with Miss Ayliffe-Chung, remembered her as a “beautiful soul” who had “fallen in love with the country and its people”.
He said: “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.”
Mr Stead said they met towards the end of April through friends in Surfers Paradise but had recently split up.
“She was living in Surfers on the Gold Coast and planning on exploring Australia, with the intention to find a sponsorship as she wanted to stay here as she had fallen in love with the country and its people,” he said.
“I can’t quite get my head around what’s happened. Truly devastated, more just disbelief that this has happened.”
Mykah Powell, 18, a colleague from the Bedroom Lounge Bar, said Miss Ayliffe-Chung initially worked at Bond University in Queensland before starting work at the dance club six months ago.
She said: “She loved her cat Leo which she purchased here in Australia very much and was forever Snapchat-ing the cuteness.”
Amy Browne, 19, who also worked at the Bedroom Lounge Bar, 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.”
Profile: Mia Ayliffe-Chung
According to her Facebook profile, Miss Ayliffe-Chung is from Wirksworth in Derbyshire.
She went to Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth before going to Chesterfield College to study psychology and communication and culture.
She later went to Buxton and Leek College to study childcare.
It is understood she travelled to Bali before arriving in Australia.
Tommy Martin, 24, from Berkshire, who met Miss Ayliffe-Chung in Bali before reuniting on the Gold Coast, said: “She was a free spirit who didn’t have any set plans but that’s the way she loved it.”
Police said Miss Ayliffe-Chung’s family had been contacted, as had the relatives of Mr Jackson – who was taken to Townsville Base Hospital.
British High Commissioner to Australia, Menna Rawlings, is also 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.”
A 46-year-old Australian man injured in the incident – named by a friend as Grant Scholz, who ran the hostel – sustained non life-threatening injuries and has since been released from hospital.
A dog was also killed in the attack.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the suspect, who was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries, had been in Australia since around March on a temporary visa. He has no known local connections.
Mr Gollschewski said officers, who retrieved a knife thought to be the weapon involved in the stabbing, 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.
“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.”
‘Joy and energy’
Paul Lovatt, head of pastoral care at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth, remembered former pupil Miss Ayliffe-Chung as “enriching the school environment”.
He said: “Everyone at the school is shocked and saddened at the news that Mia has lost her life in the most tragic of circumstances.
“We knew Mia as a student with so much joy and energy who was well-liked by her friends and teachers.
“She joined our school in Year 9 and flourished here, both in making strong friendships and in achieving high-level GCSEs.
“Mia was a bubbly student who was energetic, caring and who immersed herself in life, enriching the school environment she contributed to.
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this most difficult of times.”
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