Sydney (AFP) – Three generations of one family were widely reported Saturday to be the victims of Australia’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, an apparent murder-suicide in which seven people were found dead.
Police have declined to identify the four children and three adults discovered Friday at a rural property near the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia.
But neighbours told local media the dead were a woman identified as Katrina Miles, her children aged eight to 13 and her parents.
Two firearms were found with the bodies and police have made no mention of any suspect in the case, suggesting a murder-suicide although this was not confirmed.
Felicity Haynes, who lives on a neighbouring property, told broadcaster ABC the family involved were “caring neighbours”.
“They were a very socially aware family, doing their best to create a safe community, and that is why it is so shocking,” she said.
Mass shootings are uncommon in Australia and the shooting is the deadliest since a 1996 massacre that left 35 dead at Port Arthur in Tasmania, after which the government enacted strict gun laws.
Five bodies were found inside one building, according to police, which reports said were Miles and her four children — two boys and two girls.
The two other bodies, found outside, were reported to be Miles’ parents, Cynda and Peter Miles.
Facebook posts by Katrina and Cynda Miles, quoted by local media, referred to the children as all being autistic and homeschooled.
The shooting happened in the small town of Osmington, close to Margaret River, a popular tourist destination renowned for its wine, surf and natural beauty.
A neighbour told the West Australian newspaper she was woken by gunfire about 4:00 am Friday morning (2000 GMT Thursday), but thought it was someone shooting kangaroos, which are numerous in the area.
“It wasn’t until I saw the police that I thought, ‘Hang on a minute’,” Meg Janes told the newspaper. “(The shots) were separated out, there was quite a long gap between them.”
Police said they went to the scene after receiving a call from a man connected to the property at 5:15 am, but did not give further details.