The lonely internet surfer charged with igniting a national disaster
The man accused of starting one of Australia’s deadly wildfires is a lonely web surfer who liked dogs, always said ‘G’day’ to neighbours, and was trying to find love online.
As the death toll from the fires reached 200, Brendan Sokaluk (39), who reportedly once served as a volunteer firefighter, was named as the suspect police arrested last week.
The grim milestone was passed yesterday after investigators confirmed 11 more people had died in one of more than 400 fires that raged across southern Victoria state on February 7.
More than 1,800 homes were destroyed in the fires, which scorched more than 1,500 (3,900 square kilometres) of farms, forests and towns.
Victoria police said in a statement the new deaths were from a fire that razed the town of Kinglake and surrounding areas.
Authorities are keeping 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 in south-east Victoria state, known as the Churchill fire, that police said killed 10 people.
”He was quiet. You wouldn’t know if he was odd or not,” said a neighbour, who did not want to be named.
“He would say ‘G’day’ when you passed him.”