The wife of a French tourist who was stabbed to death in the Northern Territory outback tried desperately to save her husband from the alleged attacker.
The Frenchman, Philippe Jegouzo ,33, had been standing in a rest stop with his wife on Wednesday afternoon when police allege Victorian man Pande Veleski, 35, pulled up behind the couple and stabbed him in the neck.
Police said the attack was unprovoked and came without warning, as the couple - who had only recently arrived in Australia - were confronted unexpectedly by the alleged knifeman. They had been alone at the rest stop and exchanged some small talk before the violence began.
Jegouzo's wife, 30-year-old Aurelie Chorier, tried to fight off the attacker by hitting him on the head with a picnic table, the NT News reports. The man then fled the scene.
The horrific incident happened at Connors Well, 97km north of Alice Springs - and in a disturbing twist - was less than 200km where Peter Falconio was murdered in 2011.
The attack has plunged the Territory once again into infamy, and it comes as Joanne Lees, the girlfriend of Mr Falconio, visits the area to set up a memorial in his honour.
A nurse and her husband who happened to be driving past stopped to try and help the couple when they saw what had happened. The nurse tried frantically to revive the man using CPR while her husband drove to the Aileron roadhouse, 30km away, to call emergency services.
A staff member at the roadhouse said the man remained calm while conveying the horror of what he'd seen to triple 0.
BJ Gorman, the manager of the Aileron Roadhouse, told ABC local radio in Alice Springs that a man came in to call for help.
"We had a fella come in here to call the police, saying there was a stabbing at Connors Well," he said.
"Some fella, some tourist got stabbed ... said another fella did stab him and took off."
But he couldn't be saved and died in front of his wife on the side of the isolated highway. His wife was taken to hospital where she was treated for severe shock.
Detective Superintendent Travis Wurst said she was "particularly traumatised by the event".
She still hadn't been able to speak to detectives. "This is an absolutely devastating occurrence for her and for her family and that of the deceased as well."
At the scene late on Thursday police forensic teams hunted for evidence, with items being removed in brown sample bags, while the couple's red Rav 4 was parked to the side of the scene. A soft toy could be seen in the front.
A sign that reads "enjoy your rest' is one of the only objects decorating the lonely stop. A large bloodstain could be seen near the picnic table the wife used to try and save her husband.
Supt Wurst told AAP police were desperate to speak with any motorists who saw the accused's car on the Stuart Hwy.
"Anyone who was on the south Stuart Hwy between Ti Tree and Alice Springs who may have seen a silver Hyundai hatchback with a Victorian registration who may have been acting suspiciously or in any other locations in that highway area.
"That vehicle is the vehicle we are led to believe the person was driving at the time.
"The vehicle is being examined as a crime scene. I'd also ask anyone who has seen the car in the days leading up to this incident occurring to provide assistance in establishing a time line for the travels of this vehicle."
A massive search quickly began for the attacker, with police spreading over a wide area as the scoured scrubland and set up roadblocks.
The huge distances police had to travel meant it was some time until they were able to get to the scene.
The victim's wife was able to tell police he escaped in a grey Hyundai i20 hatchback. Police recognised the car and stopped him at one of the roadblocks at Ti Tree, about 200km north of Alice Springs, but he ran off into the bush.
He was found at first light after being spotted from the air by a helicopter. Witnesses told the NT News he was found naked.
He was taken to Alice Springs Hospital where he was guarded by police overnight. He was expected to be brought to the Alice Springs police station this morning,
Police were still trying to establish the precise timeline around the tragedy, including exactly what happened at the rest stop.
The French consulate general is providing support to the victim's family. "Our immediate thoughts go to the family of the victim to whom we send our most sincere condolences," it said in a statement.
A tourist told the Today show everyone was "on tenterhooks" after the stabbing.
"Because it's only 30 Ks down the road from us. It's not fair for tourists to come out to Australia, to come out and see the outback like that and they don't - like you don't expect a man to pull up and Bam, stab you."
Locals told the Nine Network they were worried about the publicity the murder could attract, particularly after the Falconio murder, and just as the memorial was about to be set up.