Four children have been found dead along with their mother and grandparents in the worst Australian mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre.
The three generations of the same family were found with gunshot wounds Friday at a rural property in southwest Australia in what has been described as a "horrific" suspected murder-suicide.
In a crime that has shocked the nation, Katrina Miles and her children aged eight to 13 were found dead at the home of her parents-in-law, Peter and Cynda Miles, who were well known and respected in the community.
Cynda was killed, as was another male, identified by some media as Peter.
All seven had moved Osmington, a village of fewer than 700 people near the tourist town of Margaret River, to grow fruit three years ago.
Police did not confirm their identities and would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide, but said they are not looking for a suspect.
Officers were called to the quiet property by a male at 5am on Friday and found five people inside the house and two adults outside, as well as two firearms.
All seven were said to be residents of the property at Osmington, a small town about 160 miles south of Perth, known for its wineries and resorts.
The state’s police commissioner, Chris Dawson, said the shooting was “horrific” but confirmed they were not looking for suspects, suggesting it was a murder-suicide.
"The loss of any life is tragic, but four children and three adults, this is a significant tragedy," he said.
“I don’t think any other words can describe how tragic this is. This will be a very large-scale and detailed investigation."
She apparently said on Facebook a month ago that she believed she was being stalked by someone close to her.
Meg Janes, a 68-year-old local resident, said she heard a series of gunshots early in the morning and assumed that someone was shooting kangaroos. The shots, she said, had “quite a long gap between them”.
“Something woke me up around 4am,” she told the PerthNow website.
“I heard quite a few gunshots and at the time I didn’t take much notice of it. I got up and went to the toilet and I thought, ‘That’s a bit strange, that’s an odd hour to be shooting kangaroos’. It wasn’t until I saw the police that I thought, ‘Hang on a minute’.”
Ms Janes said of the family: “We’d swap plants and seedlings from time to time. They’re really nice people… It’s a huge shock for everyone.”
Pamela Townshend, the president of the local Margaret River-Augusta shire, said the dead family was well-known in the tight-knit community.
“Everyone is totally shocked. It is just so sad. It’s just overwhelming,” she told The West Australian.
“[Osmington] is a very small community. Everyone knows everyone. This family, if it is who we think it is, is very embedded in the local community.”
Felicity Haynes, another resident, said the family moved to Osmington from the town of Margaret River, about 12 miles away, for the seclusion and quiet of rural life.
The incident was the worst mass shooting in Australia since a 1996 massacre by a deranged gunman at Port Arthur, a former convict jail in Tasmania, which left 35 people dead.
That shooting prompted an overhaul of Australia’s gun laws, including an amnesty which resulted in the destruction of about 700,000 privately-owned firearms.
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) May 11, 2018
Gun crime in Australia fell sharply after strict controls were introduced in response to a mass shooting in 1996, when a lone gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania.
That prompted the government to buy back or confiscate a million firearms and make it harder to buy new ones.
Australia has banned all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and has a restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.
While there have been some mass killings since Port Arthur, the latest killings could prove to be the single biggest incident of gun-related deaths since 1996.
Police said they went to the property after getting a telephone call.
"The reason police went to the property was from a telephone call which we've recorded," said Dawson, who would not comment on the identity of the caller.
He said police and other specialists would be at the scene for several days at least.
"This will be a very large scale and detailed investigation," he said.