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Australia's most wanted captured

22 March 2012, 15:10

Australia - Australia's most wanted fugitive - a survival expert who outwitted police for seven years by living in dense and rugged forest - was finally captured in a remote cabin on Thursday.

Malcolm Naden, whose ability to evade police evoked comparisons to famous 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, had been on the run since disappearing in June 2005 from his grandparents' home.

He went missing days before mother-of-two Kristy Scholes, aged 24, was found strangled in his bedroom and was also wanted for questioning over the indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl and the disappearance of his 24-year-old cousin.

The 38-year-old was arrested just after midnight when officers swooped on a private property near Gloucester in the hinterland of the New South Wales state's north coast following a tip that he was there.

He was bitten by a police dog during the operation but did not use any of the weapons he had, including a gun that he allegedly used to shoot and wound a policeman in December.

Since that incident, about 50 officers have been involved in an around-the-clock manhunt

Tactics prevailed

Assistant Commissioner Carlene York, the commander of the strike force set up to capture him, said she never doubted the operation would succeed.

"Our people were operating in extremely difficult conditions and we had to adapt our strategies along the way," York said as pictures showed Naden with a wild beard, shackled, handcuffed and covered in mud.

"However, we always understood that every day brought us closer and that our tactics would prevail.

"This was a game of patience and I am very proud of everyone involved."

Naden previously worked as a shearer, skinner and boner in an abattoir and has been described as a "master bushman" with an intimate knowledge of the rugged terrain in which he was hiding.

According to earlier reports, before he disappeared he lived behind a locked bedroom door where he read the Bible, encyclopaedias and survival manuals.

Other reports said he often set up crude but sturdy camps on hilltops, giving him the widest possible field of vision, and survived on whatever the bush provided while breaking into remote homes to steal weapons and supplies.

Road to recovery

His exploits drew parallels with Kelly, Australia's most famous bushranger whose life was made into several films. Kelly was seen as a working-class hero despite murdering three police officers.

The father of Naden's missing cousin Lateesha Nolan told ABC radio he hoped the arrest would shed light on what happened to his daughter.

"I sort of felt like falling to the ground on my knees, I didn't know what to say," Mick Peet said about hearing the news of Naden's capture.

"I'm just glad we're on the road to some kind of recovery to find out what happened to my daughter and some closure."

An uncle of Scholes said the family were overcome by the developments.

"Overwhelmed, I'm just so shocked, we didn't expect it," Tony Scholes told the Seven Network.

Naden is expected to appear in court later on Thursday.


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