AUSTRALIA (ABC NEWS)- Relatives of the seven family members found dead from gunshot wounds at a property in southwest Australia say they are “devastated” and “stunned” by what appears to be the country’s deadliest mass shooting in 22 years.
In a statement released through police on Saturday, the unnamed relatives said they are struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
“We are devastated by this shocking event. We are stunned and still trying to understand how this could happen,” the victims’ family said in the statement. “We respectfully ask that the community refrain from speculating on the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident. We thank the community for their support and ask that our privacy is respected as we grieve.”
Police were called before dawn Friday to a residence in the village of Osmington, some 13 miles northeast of the popular tourist town of Margaret River. There, officers discovered the bodies of three adults and four children, according to the Western Australia Police Force.
Police said one of the adults was found outside on the rural property, one of the female adults was discovered inside the main house, while the other victims were inside a shed that had been converted into living quarters. Police had initially said that two adult victims were found outside.
Although formal identification of the victims was not yet complete, police said they believe the victims are 35-year-old Katrina Miles, her daughter, 13-year-old Taye Cockman, her sons, 12-year-old Rylan Cockman, 10-year-old Ayre Cockman and 8-year-old Kayden Cockman, as well as her parents, 61-year-old Peter John Miles and 58-year-old Cynda Miles.
“We know that the members of this family were deeply connected to the town of Margaret River. Many people who know the family are deeply feeling the loss and the community understandably [does] want answers,” Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said at a news conference Saturday.
Three firearms were recovered from the crime scene and all are licensed to Peter John Miles, the grandfather of the four children, according to Dawson.
“I wish to strongly emphasize that police do not believe any other person is involved in these crimes. Police are not searching for any other suspects,” he told reporters at Saturday’s news conference.
Dawson, who noted that the investigation is still ongoing, described the deaths as “suspicious” and “very tragic.”
Homicide and forensic crime-scene detectives traveled some 170 miles from Perth to assist in the investigation in Osmington. Police said they have no information to raise concerns about wider public safety issues.
Pamela Townshend, president of the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, said counselors and psychologists will be available to members of the community at the Margaret River Community Resource Center. The center’s church gallery will be a designated place for people to leave flowers and cards for the victims.
“I’m absolutely devastated that this has happened in our community. It’s such a small community and it will have a huge effect — it’s already having a huge effect,” Townshend said at the press conference Saturday. “This is a strong, connected community, and I know that we’ll all support each other and we’ll get through this together.”
This could be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a gunman killed 35 people in the village of Port Arthur in Tasmania state in 1996. The massacre prompted the nation to tighten its gun control laws, which have been widely lauded as a success in preventing mass shootings — typically defined as the shooting deaths of at least four people, excluding the shooter, in a single event.
Since 1996, Australia’s worst shooting incident before Friday’s occurred in 2014, when a man killed his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself at the family’s farmstead near the town of Lockhart in New South Wales state.