CAIRNS, Australia: The mother of most of the eight children reportedly found stabbed to death in a house in the Australian city of Cairns has been arrested for murder, police said Saturday.
“The 37-year-old mother of several of the children involved in this incident has been arrested for murder overnight and is currently under police guard at the Cairns Base Hospital,” detective inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters.
The woman, who police said was believed to be the mother of seven of the children and the aunt of the eighth, has not been charged.
But Queensland Police said she was assisting them with their inquiries into the deaths of the children, who ranged in age from babies to teenagers.
“She’s stable and being looked after,” Asnicar said, adding that the woman, who has stab wounds to her upper body, was “awake, she’s lucid and speaking”.
Asnicar could not say whether the mother’s wounds were self-inflicted.
“At this stage we’re not looking for anybody else. We’re comfortable that the community at large is safe and have no need to concern,” he said.
Police forensic teams are still working in the house, but the bodies of the children aged between 18 months and 14 years have been removed.
Asnicar said it was too early to say how the children died, but reports have said they were stabbed to death and police confirmed that a number of weapons, including knives, were found inside the house.
The murders have rocked Australia, still reeling from a dramatic siege in a central Sydney cafe this week that left two hostages and a gunman dead and prompted a huge outpouring of emotion.
The latest tragedy is reported to have been discovered by the mother’s 20-year-old son who arrived at the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning to find his siblings murdered.
The distressing deaths have come as a shock to police, who said the house was not a “problem house”.
“This is just an ordinary neighbourhood,” Asnicar said. “A lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area and this is just something that has caught everybody by surprise. It’s absolutely tragic.”
Candlelight vigils and church services took place in Cairns overnight, and police said they are working closely with the indigenous Torres Strait Islander community to which the family belonged.
Reports said a woman was heard screaming in the house on Thursday night, with Brisbane’s Courier-Mail saying she was heard to shout: “Don’t let them take away from us. God bless us. Forgive me for what I’ll do.”
One neighbour told the paper the woman was having “a bad night” on Thursday.
“I heard her fighting with someone this morning about 4:00am (Friday),” she said. “I last saw her about 6:00 am, then it was quiet.
“I saw her moving stuff out of the house yesterday. She was putting furniture and stuff out the front on the street, giving stuff away to family and friends.
“She said she was changing her life. She wasn’t well but she loved those kids.”
A 13-year-old girl who is friends with a child who lives in the house said she had walked her friend home on Thursday night after shopping and had met the mother, who had given her money for a taxi ride home.
“She was saying stuff about God and other stuff,” she told Australian Associated Press. “She said: ‘Papa God gave me the power to do anything’.”