A 61-year-old farmer is suspected of carrying out Australia’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, shooting dead six family members, including four of his grandchildren, before killing himself last week, according to a state official.
Police found Peter Miles, his wife Cynda, their daughter Katrina Miles and her four children with fatal gunshot wounds on Friday where they lived at Forever Dreaming Farm in the village of Osmington in Western Australia state.
State Premier Mark McGowan on Monday confirmed that Peter Miles was the suspected perpetrator.
Police have released few details of the tragedy, which was Australia’s worst mass shooting since a lone gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania state in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.
A coroner will investigate the tragedy and officially state the causes of the seven deaths.
“Why he did it, what he did, you can only ever surmise,” Mr McGowan told Perth Radio 6PR. “As far as I’m aware, there was no evidence that he had any sort of mental health issues that could have resulted in the firearms being removed from him.”
Police found three guns registered to Peter Miles at the 30-acre sheep and vegetable farm where the three generations lived. Gun-owners in Australia lose their right to own a gun if they or a member of their family with whom they live are diagnosed with a mental illness such as depression.
Aaron Cockman, father of the dead children and the estranged husband of their mother, told reporters on Sunday that police had told him Peter Miles had shot dead Mr Cockman’s family as they slept in a converted shed where they lived before killing his wife in the living room of their house.
Peter Miles then called police before dawn on Friday. He had turned a gun on himself before police arrived, Mr Cockman said.
Mr Cockman said Peter Miles had struggled with the suicide of a son and news that another son had serious kidney disease.
Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need for them to kill feral pests and predators or sick and injured livestock. However, automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.