The chilling moments before 'frenzied' stabbing killed backpackers
WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: Mia Ayliffe-Chung was travelling around Australia when she was stabbed to death in a “frenzied” attack by a French man at her hostel who became infatuated with her, a coroner has revealed.
The British backpacker was staying in Home Hill, about 98 kilometres southeast of Townsville, in August, 2016, when her life was tragically cut short.
The 20-year-old had been at the hostel for just a week when Smail Ayad, then 29, stabbed her and another British backpacker, Tom Jackson, 30, to death. Mr Jackson was attempting to save Ms Ayliffe-Chung’s life.
Now four years after the horrific attack, a coroner has revealed the chilling moments that led up to the deaths of the two young backpackers on a trip of a lifetime.
‘She is my wife’
When Ms Ayliffe-Chung arrived at Shelley’s Backpackers in Home Hill in 2016, a week before her August 23 death, she was put in the same room as Ayad.
According to a coroner’s report, he initially wanted to have the room to himself but was told he did not have that choice.
Evidence to the coroner suggested Ayad and Ms Ayliffe-Chung did not interact socially, but he had developed an attraction towards her.
“Ayad told me that he thought Mia was wonderful and that she has a good body and that when he leaves he will take Mia with him,” an Italian national staying at the hostel recalled for the coroner.
“Ayad said to me that Mia is his wife. I did not think this made sense because he is not Mia’s husband or boyfriend.”
Another guest claimed she overheard a separate conversation, where Ayad proclaimed Mia was in his room, was his wife and he “wanted to sleep with her”.
Mia complained of harassment day before attack
The coroner wrote in her report a witness claimed Ms Ayliffe-Chung had requested to move rooms after a man had been harassing her.
“Mia told me that she was in a room with two boys and that she was the only girl,” the witness said.
“I remember that Mia told me there was a guy in her room that was getting too close to her, physically by touching her and was verbally harassing her.
“Mia said that he was saying things like that he wanted her to be his girlfriend and that he wanted sex from her. I didn’t know who the male was that she was referring to at this point.”
The witness said Ms Ayliffe-Chung claimed the man was “following her everywhere” and he would constantly stare at her.
“Mia told me that she felt uncomfortable when she was in the room with this male,” the witness said.
When asked by the witness why Ms Ayliffe-Chung did not ask to move rooms, she said she was denied her request.
Coroner Nerida Wilson could not confirm suggestions Ms Ayliffe-Chung was denied a request when she asked to move rooms, but said women should be paired with other women.
"Such high-density sharing arrangements are already fraught, even without the added layer of vulnerability a woman may experience being accommodated with males not known to her," Coroner Wilson said.
Man’s chilling warning before horrific stabbing
Ayad had expressed a want to leave the backpackers on August 23, 2016, the day of the frenzied attack.
According to the coroners report, another backpacker staying at the hostel had a conversation with him that very same day where he confided in her.
“I want to tell you something. Something will happen tonight. I feel like everybody wants bad things for me like something will happen to me,” the backpacker claimed Ayad said.
When she asked why he thought that he replied: “I just feel something really bad.”
She claimed he was acting paranoid.
On the night of the attack Ms Ayliffe-Chung had been out with friends. At the hostel Ayad was seen shouting at the ground but when asked if he was OK, he said he was and returned to his room.
Frenzied stabbing caught on CCTV
Soon after, about 11pm, the horrific ordeal was caught by CCTV. Ayad was seen with his hand around Ms Ayliffe-Chung as he left the room for the balcony, holding a knife in his right hand.
The night manager then approached them slowly while another guest saw what was unfolding out of a doorway adjacent.
Ayad then made a swift cutting motion as Ms Ayliffe-Chung fell to the ground and Ayad launched into a frenzied stabbing attack as she tried to protect herself.
As the night manager tried to stop Ayad, he was stabbed in the leg. The attack on Ms Ayliffe-Chung lasted just 10 seconds.
She got up and ran to a nearby bathroom and locked herself in a cubicle as Ayad stood back when he realised people were closing in around him.
Ayad then jumped off the balcony “as if he was attempting to fly”, according to the coroners report, and Mr Jackson and another man helped him up off the ground, unaware of what just happened above them.
“The scene at the hostel was one of chaos, confusion and fear,” the coroners report said.
The man who witnessed the attack on Ms Ayliffe-Chung through his door began yelling from the balcony, and Mr Jackson ran to the toilet area to help him administer first aid.
“During this time Ayad went back up onto the balcony and paced along it for a period of time whilst continuing to hold on to the knife. He was shouting and gesturing,” the report said.
Mr Jackson opened the bathroom door to look outside and CCTV showed him say something to Ayad.
Ayad is then seen pushing open the bathroom door and attacking Mr Jackson with the knife. The other man ran from the bathroom to get help.
When police attended they arrested Ayad and the first paramedic to arrive was confronted by a “deeply distressing scene”.
Ms Ayliffe-Chung died at the scene about 30 minutes after the ordeal began, while Mr Jackson was rushed to hospital where he died from his wounds six days later on August 29, 2016.
Coroner Wilson said Ayad had consumed cannabis in the lead up to the attack and he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
He remains as an impatient at a treatment facility in Queensland and he is expected to be repatriated to France, where he will continue treatment in a medical facility.
Coroner Wilson ruled there was no need for a formal inquest as there would likely not be any recommendations that would prevent similar deaths.
However she said the shocking and unforeseen deaths “occurred at the hands of a psychotic individual”.
“All persons present during these events were exposed to what can only be described as a horrifying and frenzied attack on two people,” she said.
“Mia and Thomas were in the prime of their life and enjoying a carefree experience of a lifetime in a country that is by all standards otherwise considered safe. Their life, and their death, touched many.”
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