Australia Cairns: Mother charged with eight murders

A policewoman enters the house where the murders took place in Cairns, Australia, 21 December Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The killings took place at a house in the Cairns district of Manoora

Australian authorities have charged a woman in the northern city of Cairns with the murder of seven of her children and her niece.

Mersane Warria, 37, was charged while in hospital where she is being treated under guard for self-inflicted knife wounds, police say.

Post-mortem examinations are being carried out to determine the exact cause of the eight victims' deaths.

The four boys and four girls were aged between 18 months and 14 years.

Police found a number of weapons at the scene, including knives, which are being examined.

Officers said they were looking at various possibilities for the deaths, including suffocation.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Dozens of flowers and soft toys have been left at memorials near the scene
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Family members of the victims went to visit some of the tributes
Image copyright AFP
Image caption A church service was held to remember the eight children
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The killings have stunned the community

The bodies were reportedly discovered by the mother's 20-year-old son arriving at the home on Friday morning.

Police have dismissed reports the family had been investigated by social services saying it was "not a problem house".

Memorials have sprung up outside the home in the Manoora district of Cairns.

A church service was held on Sunday morning to remember the children.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement it was an "unspeakable crime".

These were "trying days for our country", he added.

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