Town at flashpoint as pair charged with murder
POLICE fear revenge attacks and Aurukun is again at flashpoint after eight houses were torched by a crazed mob in a grog-fuelled riot over a stabbing death in the Cape York township.
Up to 200 locals armed with knives, metal bars, spearguns, and bows and arrows set fire to homes and cars in a terrifying six-hour rampage on New Year's Day.
Rival clan members were bashed, homes ransacked, and the police station, hospital and airport stormed as a drunken lynch mob hunted two teens over the alleged stabbing murder.
Wik and Wik Way clan leaders and police are appealing for calm, as riot squad police flown in from Cairns patrol the isolated aboriginal township.
"It's the worst I have seen - it rates right up there with the history of the town," far north police superintendent Geoff Sheldon said.
"I don't think we have ever seen eight houses burned to the ground. Aurukun is at a flashpoint."
Witnesses told how the mob roamed the streets screaming "kill them" as they torched houses and cars to "smoke out" the alleged killers.
"It was absolutely out-of-control," one eyewitness told The Courier-Mail.
"It was a crazed, drunken mob out for blood and revenge.
"They were hunting two boys over a stabbing and went house to house pelting bricks and setting clothes, cars, and bedding on fire."
Families have evacuated and the police station, hospital, and other government facilities are locked down.
One Wik leader said the fatal stabbing of a 37-year-old man, who cannot be named under tribal custom, was over a "slight" between two family groups.
But sly-grogging was to blame for the binge-drinking that escalated into a full-blown riot, the leader said.
"We all work hard to make Aurukun a better place," the leader said.
"(People) need to understand sly-groggers are to blame, they poured alcohol on to the powder keg and the township exploded."
It had been a peaceful start to 2020 with children playing with coloured paint and flour, families sharing fresh barramundi, and dancing and singing in the 1500-strong Cape York aboriginal township.
But late in the day, it turned into fistfights, pelted rocks, and a death in the clash between rival clans after a sly grog run selling bottles of rum for $250 spilt into violence.
It is understood the stabbing victim had gone to a house to confront another man over a fistfight he'd lost weeks earlier.
"It started with a mob of about 40 who stormed a home with knives, metal bars, compound bows and arrows,'' a witness said.
"But then one man got stabbed in the stomach and died, and the mob very quickly tripled in size."
Superintendent Geoff Sheldon said tensions were still high.
"The level of threats and property destruction that we saw … is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," he said.
Detectives have charged a 17-year-old youth and an 18-year-old man with murder.
The 18-year-old appeared briefly by video link from Weipa in the Cairns Magistrates Court yesterday.