Australian hostel arsonist appeals conviction


The man jailed for lighting the fire that killed 15 in an Australian backpacker hostel lodged an appeal today against his conviction and 20-year sentence.

Robert Paul Long (38) was convicted last month after a Queensland Supreme Court jury found him guilty of starting the fire that destroyed the hostel in the Queensland town of Childers.

Ms Julie O'Keeff, (24), a student from Bray, Co Wicklow, was among those killed.

Defence lawyer Mr Peter Delibaltas filed an appeal today that cited seven grounds for overturning the conviction.

The appeal claims among other things that Supreme Court Justice Peter Dutney erred by declining to impose a permanent stay of proceedings. It also alleges there was a miscarriage of justice due to the media coverage of the tragedy.

Justice Dutney's decision to admit evidence at trial of Long's confession, suicide notes and previous threats to burn down the hostel, which with the testimony of two policemen who told Long's trial he confessed, was wrong in law, the appeal submission says.

The itinerant fruit picker was sentenced to serve at least two decades in prison for the murder of Australian twin sisters Kelly and Stacey Slarke and a concurrent 15 years for lighting the fire on June 23rd, 2000.

Long was not charged with the 13 other deaths because the two was sufficient for the maximum sentence.

Queensland attorney general Mr Rod Welford lodged an appeal on March 21st on the grounds the sentence was "grossly inadequate".