SYDNEY - Australia’s most wanted man, who eluded authorities for seven years by hiding in dense forests, was captured and charged with murder Thursday, ending a frustrating and at times violent hunt, police said.
Malcolm Naden was heavily bearded, barefoot, and wearing muddy clothes when New South Wales police found him just after midnight at a remote house near the town of Gloucester, about 160 miles north of Sydney. The former slaughterhouse worker has been charged with the 2005 strangling death of a cousin and other violent crimes.
A police dog bit Naden in the raid, which was prompted by a tip. Police found a loaded semiautomatic rifle on the property but said no shots were fired during the arrest.
About 50 officers had been searching for Naden since December, when police say he shot and wounded an officer during a raid at a campsite.
“Australia’s most wanted man is behind bars,’’ New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said. He called Naden a “master bushman,’’ an Australian term for a wilderness survival expert. “He has been in this area for a number of years. He knows it better than the back of his hand,’’ Scipione said.
Naden, 38, was taken to a hospital under heavy guard for treatment of the leg bite. He said nothing to reporters as he shuffled, feet shackled and face covered, into a police van after being released from the hospital.
He vanished from the home he shared with his grandparents near the rural city of Dubbo in 2005, shortly after his cousin, Kristy Scholes, 24, was strangled in a bedroom of the house. He quickly became a suspect and officials, aware of his survival skills, believed he was hiding out somewhere in a vast stretch of heavily forested terrain.
He was charged with murder in connection with Scholes’s death, two counts of aggravated indecent assault related to a 2004 attack on a teen, and shooting with intent to murder in relation to the police officer shooting in December.
Naden is also a suspect in the disappearance of another cousin, Lateesha Nolan.