The father of four children who were killed in a mass shooting that rattled a small Australian community said the siblings’ grandfather – believed to have carried out the killings in a murder-suicide – “didn’t snap.”
“He’s thought this through. I think he’s been thinking this through for a long time,” Aaron Cockman told reporters Sunday, referring to the grandfather, Peter Miles.
“How the hell did Peter do that?” he added later. “I still can’t figure it out.”
Miles, 61; his wife, Cynda, 58; their daughter, Katrina, 35; and Katrina’s four children – Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and Kayden, 8 – were found dead with gunshot wounds early Friday morning at a home in Osmington, a rural town nestled in Australia’s southwest corner. Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson did not explicitly say that Peter Miles killed his family before shooting himself. But he told reporters Saturday that only six of the seven family members were victims of a homicide, and police don’t believe any other person was involved.
Dawson also said police received an emergency call at 5:15 a.m. Friday. He said a man had made the call from the family’s property, but Dawson declined to elaborate further. Three guns – all registered to Peter Miles – were found at the house.
One of the deceased was found outside the house. Another, a woman, was found inside. The other five, a woman and the children, were found in a converted shed structure, Dawson said.
The deaths shocked Osmington, a community of only 135 people, and the nearby town of Margaret River, one of Western Australia’s surfing hot spots. Local officials said the Miles family was deeply connected to the community.
Cockman, who had been estranged from Katrina Miles for reasons that are unclear, said he saw his children during supervised visits. He told reporters that he’d spent years angry at Peter and Cynda Miles for cutting him off from his children.
“The anger towards them now is completely gone, completely gone. I don’t feel angry. I feel tremendous sadness for my kids. I don’t want anyone to feel angry,” he said.
Cockman said he used to get along well with Peter Miles, and he loved “who Peter was,” according to 9 News Australia. If it had not been for Peter Miles, he said, he wouldn’t have had his children.
“So it’s not some random guy off the street who’s taken them away from me. He gave them to me and now he’s taken them away,” the father said.
Cockman said he takes solace in knowing that his children died “peacefully in their beds.” He said he asked one of the investigators whether his youngest son, Kayden, was in the same bed as his mother when he died. The boy liked to sleep next to his mother, Cockman said.
“I was told, ‘Yes, he was in Kat’s bed. They all looked peaceful,’ ” Cockman told reporters.
The deadly incident was Australia’s worst mass shooting since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, when a gunman opened fire in a cafe in Tasmania and then hunted down more victims in his vehicle, killing 35 and injuring many.
Soon after the 1996 incident, John Howard, who was elected as Australia’s prime minister that year, enacted strict gun control. Known as the 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA), the law banned the possession, manufacture and sale of all semiautomatic firearms and pump-action shotguns other than in “exceptional circumstances,” such as military and police use.
The NFA, one of the most stringent gun laws in the world, also mandated that applicants wait 28 days from the time they obtain a permit to the time they buy a weapon. Applicants are also required to undergo firearms training, and weapons and ammunition must be stored separately, according to the law.
In 2016, a research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Australia had not had a mass shooting since the changes and that suicide rates in the country had been on the decline, The Post’s Christopher Ingraham reported. Ingraham noted, however, that there were no significant changes in gun-related homicides.
A 2016 investigation by the Age, an Australian newspaper, found that gun-related crimes in Melbourne had doubled over the past five years.
Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia, called the deaths of the seven people “one of the worst tragedies” that part of the country has been confronted with.
“Words cannot mend or heal a loss of such magnitude; nonetheless, I must express my most sincere commiserations to the family and the community, who are enduring the unendurable,” McGowan said. “However, the community down here is strong and resilient. They look after their own. And we – as Western Australians – look after our own when beleaguered with affliction and anguish.”
McGowan told reporters that he does not believe the government should take action on gun control after the shooting.
“We have some of the tightest gun laws in the world, and we’re an example to the rest of the world that you need to have very careful and strict controls,” he said, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
He said officials will wait for the coroner’s report to determine what legislative steps, if any, should be taken.
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