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Survivors' fear and fury as Childers backpacker killer applies for parole

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Survivors of the horrific Childers backpacker blaze are begging Queensland authorities to keep the man who lit the fire locked up.

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Robert Paul Long killed 15 people when he deliberately set fire to the Palace Backpackers Hostel in the town north of Brisbane in June 2000 and, after serving a 20-year sentence, has applied for parole.

Long was only ever tried for two of the deaths – those of Australian twins Kelly and Stacey Slarke – and was handed a non-parole period of 20 years behind bars.

Authorities decided not to pursue him over the other 13 deaths because they believed he’d be unlikely to serve any more time.

Long has now served his 20 years and has asked the Queensland Parole Board to release him, leaving grieving families and survivors scared and angry.

Relatives of some of the Britons who died have begged for Long never to be released.

Briton Claire Webb was just 24 when she perished in the blaze and her sister Lisa is distraught about the idea Long could get out.

“I feel devastated that Robert Long, as manipulative and evil as he is, can apply for parole,” she told The Courier-Mail.

“The passing of time has not eased our pain or given us closure, as there is no closure for such a cruel and wicked act.”

Rob Jansen, from the Netherlands, survived the Childers inferno. He’s started an Change.org petition demanding Long spend the rest of his life in jail.

“If released, just how long will it be before, Robert Paul Long with his history of violence, harms someone else,” the petition reads.

Briton Richard Tempest was backpacking his way through Australia when he checked into the hostel 20 years ago.

Soon enough he would be crawling across its scorching floorboards, fighting for every breath and for his life.

Tempest, who now lives in Brisbane, is among those who insists Long will always pose a threat to society.

“What a cowardly, despicable act to premeditate and to plan to set a fire in a known timber building with 85 people in it,” he told the ABC.

Some survivors have said Long should now be pursued over the other 13 deaths.

But the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has said Long’s prosecution is at an end.

The parole board has promised to take into account relevant submissions before it makes up a decision.

-AAP

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