Mother arrested over deaths of eight children at Australian property: Police

Police cordon off the scene where eight children aged between 18 months and 15 years were found dead at a home in the Australian city of Cairns, police said on Dec 19, 2014, reportedly after a gruesome mass stabbing. -- PHOTO: AFP
Police cordon off the scene where eight children aged between 18 months and 15 years were found dead at a home in the Australian city of Cairns, police said on Dec 19, 2014, reportedly after a gruesome mass stabbing. -- PHOTO: AFP

CAIRNS, Australia (AFP, REUTERS) - The mother of seven 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 on 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.

She was taken there on Friday with stab wounds. She still has to be formally charged, he said.

“She’s awake and lucid and able to speak,” Asnicar told reporters.

“At this time we are not looking for anybody else.”

The woman's seven children were aged between 18 months to 15 years, Asnicar said. The eighth child was her niece.

The tragedy has shocked Australia, coming just days after police stormed a Sydney cafe early on Tuesday morning to end a 16-hour hostage standoff in which three people were killed, including the hostage-taker. With the country already on heightened alert, 

Queensland police stressed that the stabbings were a domestic incident and there was no cause for alarm in the wider community.

Asnicar said forensics teams had completed their investigation and the children’s bodies had been removed from the house. “We have located a number of weapons,” including knives, Asnicar told reporters.

“Today we will have our coroner and pathologist conducting their investigations with the assistance of the family,” he said.

Queensland Police said the woman was assisting them with their enquiries.

"She's stable and being looked after," detective Asnicar said.

Cairns police said they were called to the house in the northern city and found the bodies of the children, aged between 18 months and 15 years.

Police forensic teams are still working in the house, but the bodies of the children have been removed. The mother sustained stab wounds herself and was removed from the house on Friday on a stretcher.

"She's stable and being looked after," detective Asnicar said.

Detective Asnicar said it was too early to say how the children died, but reports have said they were stabbed to death.

"The bodies have been removed from that residence," detective Asnicar said.

"Autopsies will occur today. It will be after that we can comment about those sorts of things." The murders have rocked Australia, still reeling from a dramatic siege in a central Sydney cafe this week, which began on Monday and 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.

"This is something that has caught everyone by surprise," detective Asnicar said. "Just an absolutely tragic event."