The 37-year-old mother of seven of the eight children found dead in a mass stabbing in Australia’s city of Cairns has been arrested for murder, police have said.
Det Insp Bruno Asnicar said the woman, who was hospitalised on Friday with stab wounds, was lucid and awake and talking to police. He said she was the mother of seven of the eight children, aged 18 months to 15 years. The eighth child was her niece.
Earlier police had called on the community to “lean on each other and seek support” after the bodies of the eight children were found inside a home in Cairns.
Police were called to the Murray Street residence in Manoora at around 11.20am local time, following reports of a woman with serious injuries.
The police found the bodies of the children during an examination of the property, but would not confirm how the children died.
The community has been told there is “no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it’s a tragic, tragic event”, and the situation is under control.
Supt Russell Miller said: “First of all I’d just ask that the community remain calm. Obviously it’s going to be a very complex investigation, it’s going to take time.”
He added: “There’s no indication whatsoever that it will be wider spread in the community. But there are some very unhelpful social media posts – for want of a better word – out there, that aren’t assisting and will obviously generate some unrest if they continue.” He said “significant numbers” of police were involved in the investigation, and called on the community to remain calm, saying: “I’m sure the community will support each other and that’s the biggest thing, and we’ll certainly provide the resources that they need to do that.
“I’d just encourage the community to lean on each other and seek support, but just remain calm and look after your mates, that’s a big thing.”
Speaking about the police involved, he said: “It’s devastating any time of the year, and obviously some of the police who were on the scene earlier are young junior officers. So again, we’re providing the support to them that they need as well from within our own systems.”
A “community recovery plan” is being put in place to provide support to family members and friends.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said in a statement: “The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking. All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened.
“This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country. Tonight, there will be tears and prayers across our country for these children.
“My thoughts are with the Queensland police and all who have to respond to this terrible situation.”
Cairns Det Insp Bruno Asnicar had said earlier: “As it stands at the moment, there’s no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it’s a tragic, tragic event. The situation is well controlled at the moment.”
He added: “These events are extremely distressing for everyone, of course, and police officers aren’t immune from that. We’re human beings as well. However, the police that we have here are very highly trained and professional people and they’re going about their job the way I’d expect them to and the way the QPS would expect them to.”
Lisa Thaiday, who said she is the injured woman’s cousin, said one of the woman’s other sons, a 20-year-old, came home to find his brothers and sisters dead inside the house. “I’m going to see him now, he needs comforting,” Ms Thaiday said. “We’re a big family . . . I just can’t believe it. We just found out [about] those poor babies.”
The tragedy comes as Australia reeled from the shock of a siege in a Sydney cafe earlier this week. On Monday, a gunman took control of a cafe in the heart of the city and took 17 people hostage for 16 hours. – (PA)
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