Cairns Australia deaths: Mersane Warria charged with murder of eight children found dead at her home

Mersane Warria, 37, who was found with stab wounds, has been charged with eight counts of murder

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The Independent Online

An Australian woman who was found with eight dead children at her home in Cairns has been charged with murder.

Mersane Warria, 37, was charged with eight counts of murder on Sunday for the death of seven of her children and her niece.

She was charged in a bedside hearing at a hospital in Cairns, where she is under police guard and recovering from stab wounds, Queensland state police said.

Police discovered the bodies of Warria’s seven children, three girls aged two, 11, 12, and four boys aged five, six, eight and nine, and the body of her 14-year-old niece, after they were called to her home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday.

Police had received a report of a woman with serious injuries, and Warria was found in the house suffering from stab wounds to the chest and neck.

It is understood that children, who have not been named, were found by their 20-year-old brother when he returned home on Friday morning.

 

It has not been confirmed how the children died, though reports have suggested they were stabbed to death.

Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said officers are examining several knives in the home that could have been the murder weapon, but added that suffocation was also a possible cause of death.

“We are considering that and that’s why it’s taking a bit of time,” he said. “It could be a range of things, from suffocation to a thousand other things.”

Officials have collected over 100 witness statements and are still determining exactly what happened inside the house, Asnicar said.

He added that a coroner is now conducting autopsies of the children’s bodies, but that police will not be releasing the results as the case is now a matter for the courts.

People have been leaving flowers, teddy bears and tributes in a park next to the family’s home, with messages of “RIP” and “Gone too soon”. On Sunday a man was heard wailing “My babies, my babies” near the makeshift memorial.

A church service was held on Sunday morning to honour the children and will be followed by a candlelight vigil in the evening. 

“This is a very raw and emotional time for everybody, Asnicar said. “The family is deeply upset but the community is pulling together.”

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A woman cries during a church service to remember the eight children who were killed on Friday

The five fathers of the children have been informed of the tragedy by police. The children's names have not been released due to “cultural sensitivities” within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander indigenous community, who do not name the dead and do not show their image. 

Asked how the fathers are coping with the tragedy, Asnicar said: “I don’t think we need much imagination to understand how they are feeling.”

Police are not looking for any more suspects, and a hearing has been scheduled for Monday. Warria has been excused from attending, and police have said they will oppose any request for bail.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that “these are trying days for our country” as Friday’s tragedy came just days after Australia was left reeling from the actions of a lone shooter who took a number of people hostage in Sydney.

The siege finally ended after 16 hours when police stormed the café to end the standoff. Two of the hostages and the shooter were killed.

“The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.

“All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country.”

Additional reporting by AP

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