Darwin shooting suspect had parole tag, evaded police for an hour

Sydney (AFP) –


The man accused of killing four men in a shooting spree in northern Australia while evading police for more than an hour was a ex-convict wearing a monitoring bracelet, authorities said Wednesday, ordering an urgent review into parole procedures.

The 45-year-old suspect -- armed with an illegal pump-action shotgun -- was hunting for a specific person during the rampage in the city of Darwin on Tuesday evening, police said.

They said the man, who local media identified as Ben Hoffman, was on parole and wearing a monitoring bracelet when he carried out the attack, which also left one woman wounded.

He was released from prison in January, and reportedly had had repeated brushes with the law.

Police said they were investigating possible links to outlaw motorcycle gangs and drug-related grudges.

Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner said 100 police had been assigned to the investigation, with eight crime scenes established across Darwin, a tropical outpost of 130,000.

Gunner ordered an immediate review of close to 200 people being monitored via the electronic programme in the territory.

"The Northern Territory government will do everything in its power to determine what led to these tragic events and how this violence occurred," Gunner told reporters.

"While we have no reason to believe an event like this will occur again, it is critical we make every effort that it does not."

The motive for the attack remains unknown, but police said it was not terror-related and that the gunman was "looking for one individual".

They said they had since spoken to that person, who was in another Australian state at the time of the shooting.

Police said the shotgun used in the attack was believed to have been stolen over 20 years ago.

Local media reported that Hoffman was well-known in the tight-knit community of Darwin, the smallest capital of Australia's states and territories.

Witnesses recalled harrowing scenes from Tuesday as a man moved from room to room in a local motel, opening fire on occupants.

"He shot up all the rooms, and he went to every room looking for somebody and he shot them all up, then we saw him rush out, jump into his Toyota pick-up, and rush off," witness John Rose told ABC, the national broadcaster.

Dramatic footage of the arrest shown by the ABC showed the suspect flailing on the ground as he was tasered by heavily armed police. Police said he remained in hospital Wednesday due to injuries suffered during his arrest.