One of Australia’s worst mass murderers could soon be released

(7news.com) – Survivors of the horrific Childers backpacker blaze are begging Queensland authorities to keep the man who lit the fire locked up.

Robert Paul Long killed 15 people when he deliberately set fire to the Palace Backpackers Hostel in the town north of Brisbane in June 2000.

In the days leading up to the blaze, the drifter left a series of suicide notes around town and told other travellers of his plan bash up a man he’d disagreed with.

On the night of June 23, he lit the fire that would take so many lives inside a building where fire alarms had been switched off and fire exits blocked.

Long was only ever tried for two of the deaths – those of Australian twins Kelly and Stacey Slarke – and was handed a non-parole period of 20 years behind bars.

Authorities decided not to pursue him over the other 13 deaths because they believed he’d be unlikely to serve any more time.

The fire at Palace Backpackers Hostel on June 23, 2000.
The fire at Palace Backpackers Hostel on June 23, 2000. Credit: 7NEWS

Long has now served his 20 years and has asked the Queensland Parole Board to release him, leaving grieving families and survivors scared and angry.

Survivor Rob Jansen said the situation has made him feel “powerless”.

“With the possibility that Robert Long can become a free man – that’s something that my mind is not capable of handling at the moment,” he told 7NEWS.

Jansen has started an Change.org petition demanding Long spend the rest of his life in jail.

He fears Long, with his history of violence, will “harm someone else”.

Relatives of those who perished have also begged for Long never to be released.

Briton Claire Webb was just 24 when she perished in the blaze and her sister Lisa is distraught about the idea Long could get out.