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THE AMERICAS

Australian Police Miss Chance to Capture Fugitive Bushman

NOWENDOC, Australia -- Australian police missed a chance to catch one of the country's most wanted fugitives when officers investigating a burglary drew their weapons on accused murderer Malcolm Naden only for him to escape.

Police in the town of Nowendoc, in north-eastern New South Wales, went to an abandoned house Wednesday and were confronted by 38-year-old Naden. Officers drew their weapons, however Naden fled inside the house and later escaped.

Fingerprints found at the house confirmed Naden was at the scene, according to a statement issued Thursday by New South Wales Police.

Police are believed to have been alerted to the burglary by a motion-sensor camera in the unoccupied house, The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported.

Officers recovered a firearm at the property similar to one used in the shooting of a police officer on Dec. 7. Police believe the weapon may be the same as that used in the shooting of the 33-year-old officer shot and injured in a sniper attack carried out when police were approaching a campsite near Tamworth.

"Forensic and ballistics testing is continuing on this weapon," Assistant Commissioner Carlene York said. "We have also found further food and camping items in nearby bush land which we believe to have been used by Naden."

Naden has been on the run for almost seven years since police found the strangled body of his cousin, Kristy Scholes, 24, in a bedroom at his grandparents' home in the rural New South Wales town of Dubbo.

The state's most wanted fugitive is also wanted for questioning over the disappearance of another of his cousins, Lateesha Nolan, 24, six months earlier, and for the aggravated indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl.

Naden was dubbed a "master bushman" for his success in evading police by hiding in rugged forest terrain, including once hiding in a zoo where he is believed to have eaten kangaroos to survive.

A reward of AU$250,000 (US$253,350) is on offer for information leading to his capture.