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Australian fugitive Malcolm Naden sparks huge search

Police image of Malcolm Naden
Image caption Police have released a new digitally-enhanced image of Malcolm Naden

Australian police have stepped up their hunt for a fugitive, Malcolm Naden, who has been on the run since 2005 after allegedly killing a woman.

The 38-year-old has been hiding out in a wilderness area north of Sydney.

He is a bushcraft expert and has repeatedly evaded police searches.

A reward of A$100,000 ($103,000; £66,000) has been offered. It is the first time such a big bounty has been used in Australia since the days of outlaw Ned Kelly in the 19th century.

On Wednesday a police officer was shot in the shoulder when a search team surrounded what was believed to be Mr Naden's makeshift camp site near the village of Nowendoc.

The suspect managed to escape, prompting the authorities to scale up the hunt.

Teams of heavily armed police in camouflage clothing are now scouring the woodland around the village.

They are being assisted in the search by the Australian military.

'Most wanted'

Malcolm Naden is wanted over the killing of 24-year-old Kristy Scholes in the city of Dubbo.

Police also want to question him about the disappearance of his cousin, Lateesha Nolan, also in 2005, and an indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl.

He is the most wanted man in the state of New South Wales.

The police have mounted seven major operations to find him, but Mr Naden has always managed to escape.

Image caption Large numbers of armed camouflaged police have joined the search

The latest search has been hampered by rain and fog.

"You can imagine the frustration of those trained officers that are out there in those conditions right now," the New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"Mr Naden is in that area, we are certain that he's not that far from where we last encountered him."

New South Wales Police has released a new digitally-enhanced photograph of how they believe Mr Naden now looks.

He appears thinner than in previous images the police have released, with a beard and much more hair.

'Shocking'

The suspect is believed to have been hiding for some of the time in Barrington Tops National Park, a huge thickly-forested wilderness area containing a series of extinct volcanoes.

The police have appealed to bushwalkers and tourists in the area to come forward with information about any possible sightings of Mr Naden.

Residents in the area are being told to ensure that their homes are secure and not to approach the suspect under any circumstances.

Mick Peet, the father of Lateesha Nolan, said the latest developments had come as a shock.

"I'm just a bit upset that it has taken a police officer to be shot to get this highlighted to where I wanted it. I just want him caught alive," he told ABC.

The injured police officer has been released from hospital.

Police teams with camping equipment are spending the night in the bush continuing the search.

Helicopters have also been involved in the search.

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