Mother arrested for killing of 8 children in Australia

(Reuters) — The 37-year-old mother of most of the eight children found dead in a mass stabbing in Australia’s tropical northern city of Cairns was arrested on Saturday (December 20) for murder.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said the woman is under police guard in hospital, where she was taken on Friday (December 19) with stab wounds. She has not yet been formally charged.

“Ah look, at the moment as I said, she’s awake, she’s lucid and able speaking,” Asnicar told reporters. The woman was the mother of seven of the eight children, aged 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 (December 16) 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 experts up here, so they’re looking for DNA, they’re looking for mapping of the scene to see what has occurred. They’re looking for a time chronology, they’re looking for the order of the actions that occurred, they’re looking for any trace evidence that’s in the residence itself. They’re looking for blood splatter patterns. All of these scenes that our experts are trained to look for to establish a hundred percent exactly what happened in that house when these offences were committed,” he said.

Police are yet to determine the actual murder weapon.

“We have located a number of weapons. Once again, our very, very good scientists will be looking at those weapons and at some stage we’ll be able to determine if we have the weapon that was used,” he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the events in Cairns “heartbreaking” and acknowledged that these were “trying days” for Australia.

Locals held a candlelight vigil for the children on Friday evening and began to lay flowers at a makeshift shrine, echoing a large floral memorial in Sydney where thousands of bouquets were placed for those killed in the cafe siege.

The Cairns family were members of the Torres Strait Islander community, a group of indigenous Australians viewed as distinct from the broader Aboriginal community due to their origins on islands off the Queensland coast.

Northern Region Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Taylor said police were working closely with the Torres Strait Islander community in Cairns “who may be directly affected by this tragedy.”  (Reuters)