Sunday, December 21, 2014 8:43 am
The mother of seven of eight children killed in Australia was charged with their murder Sunday, police said, describing it as the most tragic episode in their career as a makeshift memorial saw an outpouring of grief.
The 37-year-old, named in local media as Mersane Warria, was charged with eight counts of murder after the bodies of the children — four girls and four boys aged between two to 14 — were found in the northern city of Cairns on Friday morning.
The murders have stunned Australia, still reeling from a dramatic siege in a central Sydney cafe this week, which left two hostages and a gunman dead, and prompted widespread shock and anger.
“I would suspect it might be the most tragic event we have had to deal with,” Cairns detective inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters.
“All of the family has been advised (of the charges). This is very raw and it is a very emotive time for everybody. The family is deeply upset but the community is pulling together.”
The woman remained under guard in a Cairns hospital after being arrested on Saturday and appeared before a magistrate at a bedside hearing, Queensland police said in a statement.
Police said the woman, who is the mother of the seven younger children and the aunt of the 14-year-old girl, has sustained injuries that are not life-threatening.
There will be a formal hearing in a Cairns court on Monday, with police set to oppose bail.
Officers have not revealed the cause of death of the children but said they were looking into various scenarios, including suffocation.
“We are considering that (suffocation) and that’s why it’s taking a bit of time,” Asnicar said earlier Sunday.
Police previously said that knives were found at the house where the bodies were discovered.
Autopsies on the children were continuing and would be completed late Sunday at the earliest, police said.
– Family in mourning –
In moving scenes at the makeshift memorial established in a park near the crime scene, a man believed to be the father of the three youngest children wailed “my babies, my babies”, Fairfax Media reported.
He was joined at the shrine of flowers and teddy bears by other mourning relatives from the victims’ Torres Strait Islander community.
“The last time I saw her she kissed me. She said she loved me and she asked for Aus$100 which I said I’d give to her on Saturday morning on her birthday,” the father of the oldest victim told Fairfax. “My daughter, she was beautiful.”