A family of seven, including four children, were found dead with gunshot wounds on Friday at a rural property in southwest Australia in what could be the country's worst mass shooting in 22 years, police and media said.
The children died with their mother and grandparents. The three generations had moved to Osmington, a village of fewer than 700 people near the tourist town of Margaret River, in 2015 to grow fruit, according to media reports.
Police would not comment on the possibility of a murder-suicide, but they are not looking for a suspect.
After being alerted by a phone call before dawn, police found the bodies and two guns at the property, Western Australia State Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said. Police did not mention who made the call.
The bodies of two adults were found outside a house and the rest were found inside. They all resided at the property, he said.
Police were attempting to make contact with victims' relatives, Dawson said. He declined to release the names or ages of the dead.
Philip Alpers, a Sydney University gun policy analyst, said the tragedy appeared to be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 in Tasmania state in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.
Australia's gun laws are widely acclaimed as a success, with supporters including former United States President Barack Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they were implemented.
The generally accepted definition of a mass shooting - four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event - has been met only once in Australia since then. In 2014, a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.
Police have revealed few details about the recent killings, and it is not clear whether there was more than one shooter.
Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral pests and predators or sick or injured livestock. But automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.
Osmington is a collection of a few streets, farms, horse studs, vacation accommodation and vineyards supplying the premium winemaking district known as Margaret River. Samantha Lee, chair of the Gun Control Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian gun deaths, including suicides.
Here are the top developments on Margaret river deaths:
1. Seven found dead at Australian rural property: Four children and three adults were found dead on Friday at a rural property near the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia, in an apparent murder-suicide with two weapons found nearby.
It was believed those who died lived at the property, about 10 minutes drive from Margaret River, a popular tourist destination renowned for its wine, surf and natural beauty.
2. Crime could be a murder-suicide case: Five bodies were found inside a house and two outside. Homicide detectives were investigating but police were not looking for a suspect — suggesting a murder-suicide although this was not confirmed.
"We're still yet to make contact with other members of the family so at this point in time, all I'll confirm is that there are four children and three adults that have all been located deceased."
The ages of the children were not released.
Dawson said there appeared to be gunshot wounds, "but I don't want to go further than that as two firearms have been located at the scene".
3. Mass shooting a rare sight in Australia: Mass shootings are not common in Australia, which has strict gun laws. All weapons must be registered, although many arrive illegally from overseas through organised syndicates.
If confirmed as a mass shooting, the incident would be the worst in Australia since a 1996 massacre that left 35 people dead at Port Arthur in Tasmania.
4. Neighbour says family were ‘lovely, caring’ people: Felicity Haynes, who lives on a neighbouring property, told broadcaster ABC the family involved were "caring neighbours". "They were just such lovely people," she said.
"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." Dawson refused to be drawn on who the person was that alerted police, their relationship to the victims or whether they heard gunshots.
5. Margaret river shooting to be a large-scale case: "This will be a very large scale and detailed investigation." Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Pamela Townsend said the incident had impacted everyone in the area.
"It's sending shockwaves through the whole community -- we're all linked in one way or another, every family," she told WA Today.
6. ‘Australia has a tragic history of gun deaths’: Samantha Lee, chair of the Gun Control Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian gun deaths, including suicides.
"Regional and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to these sorts of tragedies, because of the combination of isolation, sometimes mental or financial hardship and easy access to firearms," Less said in a statement.
"Although the details of this tragedy are yet to come to light, Australia has a tragic history of higher rate of gun deaths in rural areas," she added.