The father of the man police want to question about the deadly fire at a backpacker hostel yesterday appealed to him to give himself up. Syd Long, whose son Robert, 37, is believed to have started the blaze in which 15 young, mainly foreign, tourists died, said he wanted to know his son was safe and well. Speaking at his home near Sydney, he said: 'Your mother and I are ready to talk to you, to help you work through the events of the past week.' His son, an itinerant fruit-picker, was evicted from the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers, Queensland, after he failed to pay his rent. He returned their last Thursday, just before the fire broke out. Acting Queensland Police Chief Superintendent Ken Benjamin said Long appeared to have left a suicide note, but handwriting on the note was being verified. While investigators have yet to establish the blaze was deliberate, details of Long's criminal past emerged yesterday, including confirmation by police sources that on one occasion he tried to torch a caravan which contained a female companion. He also has a long history of violence, including charges of attempted murder, breaking and entering, fraud and burglary. The task of retrieving bodies from the charred remains of the hostel continued yesterday. So far, 13 bodies have been transferred to a makeshift mortuary. Police said most of those who died were found huddled in one room at the back of the hostel. 'We have counted 15 bodies in there but there could be more,' Mr Benjamin said.