Eight children found dead at Australian home

Mother taken to hospital with stab wounds after police called to Cairns home where bodies of children ranged in age from 18 months to 15 were found.
A mother and daughter lay flowers across the road from the scene of a multiple stabbing in the suburb of Manoora in Cairns, Australia, on December 19, 2014. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images
A mother and daughter lay flowers across the road from the scene of a multiple stabbing in the suburb of Manoora in Cairns, Australia, on December 19, 2014. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

CAIRNS// Eight children ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years were found dead at a home in the Australian city of Cairns yesterday – just days after the deadly siege in Sydney.

Prime minister Tony Abbott called the Cairns tragedy heartbreaking, with Australia already in an outpouring of national grief over Monday’s dramatic stand-off in Sydney, in which two hostages and the gunman died.

“All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened,” Mr Abbott said. “This is an unspeakable crime.”

Cairns police said they were called to the scene and found the bodies of the children. They were all thought to have been stabbed.

A woman in her 30s, who police said was believed to be the mother of seven of the children, was injured in the incident in the suburb of Manoora, 10 minutes from the city centre.

Television footage showed her being put into an ambulance on a stretcher.

The victims had yet to be officially identified, but police said the eighth child was not from the same family, adding that there were no formal suspects for the deaths.

“We’re not talking about naming suspects or identifying particular suspects at this stage,” said detective inspector Bruno Asnicar.

“We’re looking at anybody that’s had any involvement. Everybody who’s had any involvement at all in the past two or three days is a person of interest.”

Cairns is a tropical city with a population of more than 150,000 people and is popular with foreign tourists as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Associated Press cited the injured woman’s cousin, Lisa Thaiday, as saying that a 20-year-old man arrived home to find his siblings dead inside the house.

“I just can’t believe it. We just found out about those poor babies,” she said.

Reports widely said the children had been stabbed, while the Cairns Post reported that they were also suffocated, although police did not immediately confirm this.

Who killed the children remains unclear but inspector Asnicar said there was no need for the public to be worried, suggesting no one was on the loose.

“As it stands there’s no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that this is a tragic, tragic event,” he said. “The situation is well controlled at the moment. There shouldn’t be any concern for anyone else out of this environment.”

He said it was too early to determine the chain of events.

“The crime scene is being locked down and that includes from me,” he said. “Nobody goes in there until our forensics people have finished, and until we have done that we’re not going to be able to clearly establish any relationships.”

Acting chief superintendent Russell Miller said in his 40 years of policing work he could not recall another incident like this one.

“The crime scene is wholly contained within the site, the house. As far as I know it does not extend beyond the house itself,” he said.

Cairns Post reporter Scott Forbes, who was at the scene, said the area where the bodies were found has a large indigenous population.

“All of the people here are actually related to the people who were involved in this incident,” he said about those who live on the same street.

“So they’re all reeling at the moment. But telling us that she was a very, very protective, very proud mother who loved her children dearly.”

Resident Rebecca Levers wrote on Twitter: “Horrible to come out of our house and hear this, that children are involved. Devastating.”

A couple who live in the vicinity said they did not feel safe in the area and it was not uncommon to hear fighting and drinking at night.

“It’s pretty scary. Oh my God,” said the male partner.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: December 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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