A mother and her four children are among the victims of a horrific shooting on a rural property near the town of Margaret River in Western Australia’s south-west.
Katrina Miles and her four children, aged eight to 13, were found dead, along with two other people, by police early on Friday morning in what appears to be a murder suicide.
The WA police commissioner, Chris Dawson, said a “significant tragedy” had occurred on a rural property in Osmington, near the holiday town of Margaret River.
The death toll makes it Australia’s worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
The Guardian understands Katrina and her children moved to the property – owned by her parents Cynda and Peter Miles – about three years ago. A month ago, Miles wrote on her Facebook page: “My ex does not stop stalking me”, the Australian reports.
Cynda Miles was described by her neighbour Felicity Haynes as “extremely active” in the community, and was a member of several local organisations. Police have yet to formally reveal the identities of the victims, and their involvement in the tragedy has not been confirmed.
As word about the shooting spread through the tiny community on Friday, friends of the family expressed shock at the shooting.
The Margaret River shire president, Pamela Townshend, was in a meeting when she received a news alert about the shooting. She said she was still in shock.
“This is going to rock our whole community,” she said.
“It’s a place where everybody knows everybody. People are all very connected. Osmington is extremely small. It’s just neighbours on rural properties.
“It’s not only devastating for people who know the victims but there’s this feeling of fear generated around violence and gun violence.”
At a media briefing on Friday, Dawson said police had been called to the outskirts of the rural property about 5.15am. They found seven people dead, including four children. He did not release the age of any of the victims.
Two firearms were found on the property. Dawson confirmed the victims had gunshot wounds.
“It appears that gunshot wounds are there but I don’t want to go further than that, as two firearms have been located at the scene,” he said.
“It is still very early in this investigation but based on what we do know this is clearly a significant tragedy.”
He said five bodies – the four children and one adult – were found inside a building while two adults were found outside.
Later on Friday, police in WA released a statement saying the “process of formally identifying the deceased at the Osmington property is progressing”.
“Homicide Squad Detectives and Forensic officers will continue their examination of the scene,” it read.
“To clarify, the building on the property in which five of the bodies were found is a shed that had been converted to living quarters.
“Investigations are continuing and there is no information to suggest any ongoing threat to the broader community.”
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, described the shooting as “tragic and shocking”.
“My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims, and also with the first responders and investigators as they piece together this tragic set of circumstances,” he wrote on Twitter.
The local state MP Libby Mettam said people were in shock.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and everyone affected by this tragedy, including first responders,” she said.
“The community is hurting deeply over this tragedy. The community is in shock – this is devastating.”
• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org