Katrina Miles and her four children were killed on their Osmington property in Margaret River in WA
Katrina Miles and her four children were killed on their Osmington property in Margaret River in WA Facebook

A family from a close-knit community have become the victims of a suspected murder-suicide. Seven people, including four children, were involved in what is said to be Australia’s worst mass shooting in years. The bodies of Peter and Cynda Miles were found Friday at their farm in Osmington, near Margaret River, Wester Australia.

Five bodies, belonging to their daughter, Katrina Miles, and her four children — 13-year-old Taye, 11-year-old Ryland, 10-year-old Arye and 8-year-old Kadyn Cockman — were found with gunshot wounds in a shed on the Forever Dreaming Farm. The shed is a converted living quarters where the family is believed to have had occupied.

Police were called to the property just after 5 a.m. on Friday. They responded to a call from a man, who they think was among those killed. They are not looking for a suspect as they are treating the incident as a mass murder-suicide investigation.

WA Police Chief Commissioner Chris Dawson said a man “connected to the property” had called and alerted them to the property. He did not divulge any more information other than that two firearms have been located.

“The loss of any life is tragic, but, four children and three adults, this is a significant tragedy,” he said. “This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and in particular, the local communities in our south-west.”

Dawson did not name the person they suspected of carrying out the murder-suicide killings.

A neighbour, Meg Janes, told the West Australian that she heard gunshots around 4 a.m. but thought the target were kangaroos. She remarked that it was odd that they were shooting kangaroos at that early an hour, though.

“There’s a lot of kangaroos around so it’s not unusual, although not at that time of the morning,” the 68-year-old neighbour said. It wasn’t until I saw the police that I thought, ‘Hang on a minute.’ (The shots) were separated out; there was quite a long gap between them. It wasn’t one after another.”

The Miles were active members of the local community. Both Peter and Cynda were well-known in Margaret River for their volunteer and charity work. Katrina is believed to have home-schooled her four children, although there were reports that they were students at Margaret River Primary School as well.

The children’s father, Aaron Cockman, was a local carpenter and builder, news.com.au reports. He and Katrina apparently had been involved in an acrimonious split, leading Katrina to move in with her parents with her children.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has offered his sympathies to the family of the victims, describing the incident as “appalling, awful and terrible.” He said. “This is a very distressing day for Western Australia. 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.”

The incident has been called Australia’s worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in Tasmania. There were 35 people killed and 23 wounded at the hands of a gunman.