SYDNEY (Reuters) - The 37-year-old mother of most of the eight children found dead in a mass stabbing in Australia’s tropical northern city of Cairns was arrested on Saturday for murder.
Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said the woman is under police guard in hospital, where she was taken on Friday with stab wounds. She has not yet been formally charged.
“She’s awake and lucid and able to speak,” Asnicar told reporters. “At this time we are not looking for anybody else.”
The woman was the mother of seven of the eight children, aged 18 months to 15 years, Asnicar said. The eighth child was her niece.
The tragedy has shocked Australia, coming just days after police stormed a Sydney cafe early on Tuesday morning to end a 16-hour hostage standoff in which three people were killed, including the hostage-taker.
With the country already on heightened alert, Queensland police stressed that the stabbings were a domestic incident and there was no cause for alarm in the wider community.
Asnicar said forensics teams had completed their investigation and the children’s bodies had been removed from the house.
“We have located a number of weapons,” including knives, Asnicar told reporters.
“Today we will have our coroner and pathologist conducting their investigations with the assistance of the family,” he said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the events in Cairns “heartbreaking” and acknowledged that these were “trying days” for Australia.
Locals held a candlelight vigil for the children on Friday evening and began to lay flowers at a makeshift shrine, echoing a large floral memorial in Sydney where thousands of bouquets were placed for those killed in the cafe siege.
The Cairns family were members of the Torres Strait Islander community, a group of indigenous Australians viewed as distinct from the broader Aboriginal community due to their origins on islands off the Queensland coast.
Northern Region Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Taylor said police were working closely with the Torres Strait Islander community in Cairns “who may be directly affected by this tragedy.”
Editing by Alison Williams and Gunna Dickson