Australian police are investigating the deaths of eight children after their bodies were found in a home in the tropical northern city of Cairns.
The children, aged between 18 months and 15 years, were found at 11:20 a.m. today in the suburb of Manoora, Queensland Police said in a statement. The 34-year-old mother of seven of the children is in a stable condition in the hospital and is helping police with their inquiries, Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters.
Police have “no formal suspects,” said Asnicar, adding the “tragic and traumatic” event was among the worst he has encountered. He declined to comment on how the children were killed, amid media reports many were stabbed.
The incident is one of Australia’s worst mass killings and comes days after two hostages and a gunman were shot dead following a 16-hour siege in a Sydney cafe. Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a statement calling the deaths in Cairns an “an unspeakable crime” and said the nation was facing “trying days.”
The children’s bodies were discovered by their 20-year-old brother, who is now being comforted by family members, the Cairns Post reported. State Premier Campbell Newman said he would ensure the emergency services workers who attended the scene would be given counseling if needed.
“The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking,” Abbott said. “Tonight, there will be tears and prayers across our country for these children.”
The nation’s worst mass murder was at Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996 when Martin Bryant shot dead 35 people.