A French couple, who only recently arrived in Australia, had stopped at Connor Well, 100km north of Alice Springs, when it is alleged the Victorian launched a frenzied attack.
The Herald Sun understands the victim’s wife tried to fight off the attacker, bashing him over the head with a picnic table. The man fled in a silver Hyundai with Victorian plates — leaving the distraught woman to watch her husband die on the side of the road, police said.
A nurse from Ti Tree Health Clinic, 100km north of Connor Well, was driving past with her husband and stopped in a desperate bid to save the man’s life.
She performed CPR on him as her husband drove to Aileron Roadhouse to call triple 0. Police then launched a manhunt after spotting the suspect’s car near the small town of Ti Tree.
The victim’s wife, 30, was also in Alice Springs Hospital on Thursday night. Detective Superintendent Travis Wurst said: “She is particularly traumatised.”
The Victorian man was yet to be charged by police on Thursday night. Det Supt Wurst said: “The victim’s wife is currently in Alice Springs Hospital receiving treatment and police will continue to support her. As far as we are aware, she was not injured.”
Police captured the man after setting up road blocks north and south of Ti Tree. He fled his car near there and headed into bush, where the helicopter spotted him.
Det Supt Wurst said police believed the French couple were alone at the rest stop in the minutes before the attack.
“We believe at this time the only persons at the roadside stop were the male person, who is now deceased, and his wife. The only other person believed to have been present was the person who is considered to be the attacker.”
Aileron Roadhouse employee BJ Gorman said the man who had come in and made the 000 call was calm despite the horror.
Mr Gorman said the man who made the call then rushed back to the scene to help his nurse wife.
Police continued to scour the rest stop and collect evidence on Thursday.
The couple’s red Toyota Rav 4 with a South Australian numberplate sat to the side of the crime scene, a soft toy in the front and an air freshener dangling,
Road trains passed every five minutes while two police officers kept the scene secure. Investigators slowly cleared away items into big brown-paper bags.
A big bloodstain was visible near to the fixed picnic table.
Det Supt Wurst said police were desperate to speak with any motorists who saw the suspect’s car on the highway.
“Anyone who was on the south Stuart Highway between Ti Tree and Alice Springs who may have seen a silver Hyundai hatchback with a Victorian registration who may have been acting suspiciously there or in any other locations, we would like to hear from them.”