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Archive for Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wildfire suspect named as toll hits 189

February 17, 2009

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— The only person accused of lighting one of Australia’s deadly wildfires was a lonely Web-surfer who liked dogs, always said “G’day” to neighbors, and was trying to find love online.

Brendan Sokaluk, a 39-year-old who reportedly once served as a volunteer fighter, was named as the suspect police arrested last week, as the death toll from the wildfires edged up to 189 on Monday.

Authorities were forced to keep Sokaluk at a secret location to protect him from potential reprisal attacks after a magistrate lifted a ban on publishing his name.

Sokaluk has been charged with one count of arson causing death and one of lighting a blaze that police said Monday killed 10 people. About 200 homes were destroyed in the fire, one of hundreds that blazed across Victoria state on Feb. 7 in Australia’s’ worst fire disaster.

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