Three young children were among six people killed in a knife attack in Jersey yesterday afternoon.
Also among the dead were two women and one man. All the victims were believed to be Jersey residents but their identities have not yet been disclosed. A 30-year-old man was under arrest at Jersey Hospital last night, where he is recovering from surgery, according to police.
The alarm was raised just after 3pm by a member of the public reporting a multiple stabbing at a flat at Victoria Crescent, Upper Midvale Road, St Helier, in an incident which is believed to have spilled out onto the street. Inquiries were continuing to establish a motive but it is understood no one else was being sought over the killings, which have shocked the close-knit community.
Few details about the incident were known last night, but some locals claimed the victims were all members of the same family. One neighbour told the BBC he had heard children screaming in terror. And witness Andre Thorpe said he arrived in Victoria Crescent in St Helier at about 3pm. He said: "For Jersey it was a major incident. Two ambulances turned up first because it was within a quarter of a mile of the ambulance station. Then four or five police vehicles came, all blues and twos.
"They were trying to access a private house in the crescent," he added. "It was an old Victorian terrace, a lot of them are split into flats. I saw police come running out with a child. It was a small child, I just saw the legs. They went off in an ambulance."
Mr Thorpe said he believed all the victims were members of the same family. Another neighbour said she believed the family were Polish.
A major incident room has been set up at police headquarters in St Helier, and police said a number of witnesses had come forward and police were working to identify the victims.
Head of crime services Stewart Gull, who is leading the inquiry, said: "Clearly this complex investigation is in its very early stages as we try to establish exactly what happened. We are mindful, too, of the impact of any such serious and tragic incident on the local community, and we have police officers in the area to support the investigation and local people." Mr Gull was unable to indicate how young the children were or confirm suggestions locally that the victims were Polish.
The shocking incident is likely to have a profound affect on the island's 91,000 inhabitants, the overwhelming majority of whom are native islanders of either Norman French or British extraction. Jersey recently recorded its lowest crime levels for 10 years, with just under 1,600 crimes reported in the first five months of the year.
Some residents who live near the killings were unable to return to their homes last night while forensics officers worked within a police cordon.
At a news conference, Mr Gull emphasised that Jersey was an "incredibly safe" island, adding that it had been a "pretty traumatic" incident for emergency teams to deal with. Mr Gull, who led the Ipswich serial murders inquiry in 2006, said: "It goes without saying that when you are dealing with multiple deaths, of men and women and, in particular young children, you would be inhuman not to be shaken yourself."
He added: "Jersey is an incredibly safe island, probably one of the safest places in the Western world and incidents of this nature are an extremely rare occurrence."