Three guns recovered from a rural Australia property where seven family members — including a mom and her four autistic kids — were shot to death, belonged to the clan’s grandfather, who authorities suspect is responsible for Australia’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, according to reports Saturday.
The weapons were all registered to Peter Miles and were found on his 30-acre sustainable farm in Osmington where he, along with three generations of his family were found dead of gunshot wounds on Friday, police said.
Along with Miles, 61, the victims included wife Cynda Miles, 58, their daughter, Katrina Miles, 35, and her four kids — Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and Kayden, 8, Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told reporters.
Sources told The Weekend Australian that authorities suspect the grandfather was the shooter, but Dawson would not comment on that, or whether the massacre was a murder-suicide.
“I will confirm all seven deceased suffered gunshot wounds,” Dawson said at the media briefing. “We are treating this as a matter in which clearly six persons are the subject of a homicide crime scene.”
He continued: “There is a seventh person deceased. It’s far too premature for me to come to any conclusive statement about that.”
Police received an emergency call from a man at the property at 5:15 a.m., according to Dawson.
“We know where the call was made from. We know whose phone it was made from. I’ve listened to the message. I’ve been briefed by the homicide officers. While we’ve come to some preliminary conclusions . . . I’m not going to speculate as to the chronology,” he told reporters.
Miles was found slumped in a chair on his porch with a firearm between his legs with head wounds, according to Perth Now.
His wife was discovered inside the home, and his daughter and her kids were found in a converted shed, the outlet reported. The shed was where his daughter lived with her kids, who were all home-schooled.
Miles — who ran a farm-maintenance business and was a former agriculture teacher at Margaret River Senior HS — had been “acting strange” a day before the killings, neighbor Richard Dossor told Seven News Perth.
“[He was] just not someone who I would have thought was keen to find a new client or customer,” said Dossor, who had spoken to Miles about looking after his property while he was away. “He didn’t seem enthusiastic, if you know what I mean?”
The family had faced hardships, including Miles’ son Shawn committing suicide 15 years ago, and his daughter’s strained relationship with the kids’ dad, which she posted about on social media, Perth Now reported.
In a statement, the family—which has deep roots in tiny Osmington a community of just 135 people located near the surfing hot spot town called Margaret River — told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that it’s devastated.
“We are stunned and still trying to understand how this could happen. . . . We thank the community for their support and ask that our privacy is respected as we grieve,” the family said.
Police said they are in contact with the children’s estranged father, Aaron Cockman, who is not considered a suspect.
“He’s understandably grieving,” Dawson said. “We’re providing him with as much support as we can.”
Loved ones took to social media to express their shock and grief.
“They were a very socially-aware family – doing their best to create a safe community – and that is why it is so shocking to think that could be destroyed so quickly,” neighbor Felicity Haynes told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
She described the family as “lovely people.”
“It’s sending shockwaves through the whole community – we’re all linked in one way or another, every family,” said Margaret Shire President Pamela Townshend.
The mass murder is the worst Down Under since 1996, when a lone gunman killed 35 people and seriously wounded 23 when he opened fire at a cafe in Tasmania. Soon after, the country adopted strict gun control, banning automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns from public ownership.
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