Mother charged with murder of eight children in Australia

Mother charged with murder of eight children in Australia

Mother charged with murder of eight children in Australia

This photo taken on Dec. 20 shows mourners at the scene where eight children ranging from babies to teenagers were found dead in a house in the northern Australian city of Cairns. AFP Photo

The mother of seven of eight children killed in the northern city of Cairns was charged with their murder on Dec. 21, Australian police said, as grieving family members paid emotional tributes.

The 37-year-old, who has not been named and remains under guard in a hospital, was charged with eight counts of murder after the bodies of the children - four girls and four boys aged between two to 14 - were found on Dec. 19 morning.        

She appeared before a magistrate at a bedside hearing in the Cairns Base Hospital, Queensland police said in a statement.

The murders have shocked Australia, still reeling from a dramatic siege in a central Sydney cafe this week, which left two hostages and a gunman dead, and prompted a huge outpouring of emotion.

Officers have not revealed the cause of death of the children but said they were looking into various scenarios, including suffocation.

"We are considering that (suffocation) and that's why it's taking a bit of time," detective inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters earlier Dec. 21.

Police previously said that knives were found at the house where the bodies were discovered.

Autopsies on the children were continuing and would be completed late Dec. 21 at the earliest, Asnicar added.

The woman, who was arrested Dec. 20 has non life-threatening injuries, Asnicar added. She is the mother of the seven younger children and the aunt of the 14-year-old girl.

Queensland Police have not named the family for cultural reasons. In some indigenous cultures it is considered disrespectful to say a deceased person's name.

In moving scenes Dec. 21 at a makeshift memorial established in a park near the crime scene, a man believed to be the father of the three youngest children wailed "my babies, my babies", Fairfax Media reported.

He was joined at the shrine of flowers and teddy bears by other mourning relatives from the Torres Strait Islander community where the victims were from. The father of the oldest victim also spoke of his pain.

"The last time I saw her she kissed me. She said she loved me and she asked for Aus$100 which I said I'd give to her on Saturday morning on her birthday," he told Fairfax. "My daughter, she was beautiful." 

The dead children were reportedly discovered by the mother's 20-year-old son when he arrived at the house in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Dec. 19 morning.

The deaths have come as a shock to police, who said the house was not known as a "problem house."

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.