Eight children ranging from babies to teenagers were found dead at a home in the Australian city of Cairns on Friday, police said, reportedly in a gruesome mass stabbing that comes just days after a deadly siege in Sydney.
Cairns police said they were called to the scene in the northern city and found the bodies of the children, aged between 18 months and 15 years.
A woman aged 34 was injured in the incident in the suburb of Manoora, 10 minutes from the city centre. TV footage showed her being stretchered into an ambulance. Police said she was in a stable condition and assisting detectives with their inquiries, but was not in custody.
CNN reported that police believed she is the mother of the eight children. It quoted detective inspector Bruno Asnicar as saying that police so far have no suspects in the case, but they do not believe the murders are terror-related.
Cairns Post reporter Scott Forbes, who is on the scene, said the area where the bodies were found has a large indigenous population.
“All of the people here are actually related to the people who were involved in this incident,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of those who live on the same street.
The Australian Associated Press cited the injured woman’s cousin, Lisa Thaiday, as saying the children were all siblings and the woman was their mother. She said a 20-year-old man arrived home to find his siblings dead inside the house.
Reports widely said the children had been stabbed while the Cairns Post reported they were also suffocated, although police did not immediately confirm this.
Sky News, whose news anchor broke down in tears as the drama unfolded, said a stepfather was known to live at the house, but his whereabouts were unknown.
A couple who live around the corner said they did not feel safe in the area and it was not uncommon to hear fighting and drinking at night.
“It’s pretty scary. Oh my God,” the man, who did not want to be named, told reporters.
Cairns is a tropical city with a population of more than 150,000 people and is popular with international tourists as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s biggest tourist sites.