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'Killer mum' court plea is rejected


Forensic officers at the scene of the Manoora killings (AP)

Forensic officers at the scene of the Manoora killings (AP)

Forensic officers at the scene of the Manoora killings (AP)

An Australian magistrate has rejected a plea by lawyers for a woman charged with murdering eight children to hold the next hearing in a mental health court.

Mersane Warria, charged under her full name of Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, is accused of killing seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her home in Manoora, a suburb of Cairns, on Friday.

Police were called to the home in the morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When they got to the house, they found the bodies, along with Warria, who had stab wounds to her chest.

Warria, 37, did not attend today's brief hearing at Cairns Magistrates Court as she is in hospital.

Magistrate Alan Comans rejected a request from Warria's lawyer to hold the case's next hearing in a mental health court.

Criminal cases are sometimes referred to such courts if the defendant is believed to be mentally ill or has an intellectual disability. The court then decides what the defendant's mental state was when they committed the offence.

The case was adjourned until January 30.

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Police have not said how the children, four girls and four boys aged between two and 14, died, but are examining several knives in the home. Suffocation was also a possible cause of death, they said.

"We are considering that and that's why it's taking a bit of time," Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar of Queensland Police said yesterday. "It could be a range of things, from suffocation to a thousand other things."

Officials were still trying to determine exactly what happened inside the house, and had collected more than 100 witness statements, he said. Post-mortem exanimations were being conducted, but police said they would not be releasing the results as the case was now a matter for the courts.

Police are not looking for any other suspects.

The tragedy comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe.

Last week, a gunman burst into the cafe in the heart of the city and took 18 hostages, two of whom were killed along with the gunman after police stormed in 16 hours later to end the stand-off.

Outside court, Warria's lawyer Steve MacFarlane said she was expected to be examined by psychiatrists and that the case could still be heard in mental health court after that assessment.

"I think she probably knows what happened but doesn't realise it and it hasn't sunk in," he said.

"I've spoken to her and she's coping the best that she can at the moment."

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