Cairns stabbings: Eight killed children identified as mother remains under arrest

The father of one victim said everyone had been 'happy' days before

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Police have identified the eight children stabbed to death in Cairns as the mother of seven victims remains under arrest on suspicion of their murder.

Four girls aged two, 11, 12 and 14, and four boys aged five, six, eight and nine were found dead yesterday morning by their 20-year-old brother inside a house in the suburb of Manoora.

The mother of the seven youngest children, 37-year-old Mersane Warria, was found suffering from stab wounds to her chest and neck and is under police guard in hospital.

She was arrested hours after the bodies were discovered but has not yet been charged. Warria is also the aunt of the oldest girl killed, who had been staying at the house, police said.

Her father, who has not been named, said she died the day before what would have been her 15th birthday.

“I've lost a beautiful daughter,” he told the Australian Associated Press. “What for? What has she done?”

Flowers and stuffed toys laid opposite the scene

He last saw the teenager the night before she died at a local McDonald’s, where she was out for dinner with friends.

“I said come with me but she said: ‘Oh no dad, I’m going with my friends, my aunty,’” he added.

“When I dropped her at the house a week ago, everyone was happy,” he said.

“The last time I saw her she kissed me. She said she loved me and she asked for $100 which I said I’d give to her on Saturday morning on her birthday. My daughter, she was beautiful.”

The murdered children are believed to have five fathers, who have all been contacted by police.

Police attend the scene of a multiple stabbing in the suburb of Manoora in Cairns

Their names are not being released by Queensland Police at present due to “cultural sensitivities” within the Manoora and Torres Strait indigenous community.

Residential Murray Street remained cordoned off on Saturday as the investigation continued, as a growing number of flowers, teddy bears and tributes were left nearby.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said officers were examining several knives in the home that may have been used as the murder weapon.

“We're not looking for anybody else - we're comfortable that the community at large is safe,” he added.

“[Forensics officers] are looking to establish 100 per cent what happened in that house when these offenses were committed.”

Distraught locals embrace at the scene after eight children were found stabbed to death

He dismissed rumours that social services had been called to the home by worried members of the public, saying it was not a “problem house”.

“This is an ordinary neighborhood - a lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area,” Detective Inspector Asnicar said. “This is something that has caught everybody by surprise. It's just an absolutely tragic thing.”

He paid tribute to the Cairns community for the support they have given the family, as well as the police involved, who are being offered counselling.

The city, in Australia’s tropical far north, has been devastated by the tragedy, which plunged Australia into a new wave of grief as it reeled from the deadly siege at a Sydney cafe.

On Monday, a lone gunman took 18 people hostage, killing two after police stormed in 16 hours later in a bid to free them.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia is going through “trying days” after yet more bloodshed.

“The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking,” he added. “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