‘She was saying twisted words’

Written By komlim puldel on Sabtu, 20 Desember 2014 | 20.02

The mother of seven of the children found dead in a Cairns home has been arrested for murder.

LOOKING at the three-bedroom housing commission fibro house on Murray St, the site of one of Australia's worst alleged domestic massacres, you have to a wonder: could anyone ever live in that place again?

Eight bodies, most of them very small children, were pulled from the house through the previous night after Mersane Warria, also known as Raina Thaiday, 37, allegedly went berserk and stabbed and suffocated to death her seven children and a niece.

Four girls, aged 14, 12, 11 and two, and four boys aged nine, eight, six and five were murdered.

Police have now spoken to their five fathers after their deaths.

It was a horrific end to one of Australia's saddest weeks in memory, the deaths in the Sydney siege and the atrocity in Cairns made more terrible by the approach of Christmas.

Murray St in Manoora, in the western part of Cairns, had a reputation as one of Cairns' most notorious areas long before this inconceivable crime, for which Warria has been charged with murder.

But across the road, where kids who knew and loved the family gathered yesterday to mourn the loss of so many friends, Murray St is just the place they live.

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Scene of the fatal stabbing in Murray Street, Manoora, Cairns. Picture: Brendan Radke Source: News Corp Australia

They are accustomed to drunkenness and domestic violence, which is why a group of teenagers didn't pay too much attention when they saw Warria, whom they knew as Aunty Mali, allegedly acting very strangely in the street, hours before the murders.

Sisters Cristal and Jade Atkinson, 19 and 14, Aaron Oui, 14, had turned into Murray St at 11.30pm on Thursday evening and encountered Aunty Mali on the road, several hundred metres from her home, screaming into her phone at someone.

They knew Aunty Mali well.

Jade and Aaron were both good friends of the eldest victim, Malili, aged 14, and attended the local Trinity Bay school with her. Cristal also used to join her younger sister hanging out at Malili's house and helping her babysit all the kids on weekends.

Mersane Warria has been arrested over the children's deaths. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

"She was saying (on the phone) really twisted words," says Cristal.

"We just thought she was drunk."

In this area, made up of white, Torres Strait Islander and indigenous families, people expect a certain amount of steady trouble.

It becomes compounded in the hot months leading up to Christmas, when people drink harder to fight off the heat. And then spirals further with the knowledge their kids' Christmas is disappearing on alcohol and drugs.

The neighbourhood kids say Aunty Mali wasn't much of a drinker.

Tributes flow ... a hand written note lays in a memorial of flowers toys and candles in a park next to the home where the eight children were found in Manoora, Cairns. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

She was seeing two men, neither of whom were the father to any of her kids. She'd broken up with one of them two nights earlier.

The kids do not know who she was screaming at on the phone, but a neighbour reportedly heard saying, as she wandered about the streets earlier on Thursday evening: "Don't let them take them away from us. God bless us."

A distressed woman ... is accompanied by police they attend the house in Manoora. Picture: News Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

Cristal and Jade said that one of the cousins who was staying overnight at 34 Murray likely escaped death after she "did a runner", near midnight.

The cousin came back to the house at 3am. By then, Aunty Mali – who comes from the Torres Strait island of Darnley, or Erub -- was hauling furniture into the front yard. She wanted to go in but her aunt said the children were "sleeping". She gave the cousin money for a taxi and told her to go home.

Police probe ... at Murray Street, Manoora in Cairns. Picture: Brendan Radke Source: News Corp Australia

It is not known whether the children were still alive or not at that point.

Forensic officers were still working the house yesterday for clues that could help them reconstruct the exact chronology of the terrible event. Police said they believed "knives", plural, were used in the attack.

They have not revealed the times of the deaths, nor whether any of the children tried to flee when the stabbings began.

Mourners embrace ... a memorial in the park next the home where the stabbings occurred. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Locals have picked up all kinds of stories about how the slaughter was conducted, and how the children were found. All of it is too speculative without official police confirmation – and, at this stage, they are not saying.

But the fact is that a few days earlier, everything had seemed fine at 34 Murray St.

Says Jade: "I walked past a couple of days ago and all the kids were playing in a blow-up pool under the hose. Mum was doing the gardening. It all seemed normal."

Locals distraught ... Lucy and Lency Piva were shocked to hear the news, and came down to Murray Street to pay their respects. Picture: Brendan Radke Source: News Corp Australia

Aaron didn't think his friend Malili, the eldest child in the house, was especially unhappy. They didn't even worry too much about recent postings on her chat account, where she said she was "stressed out" and was considering self-harm.

They thought it was just Malili, who was given to overstatement. "Malili was a funny, outgoing person," says Aaron. "Always the class clown."

Acting Queensland Premier Tim Nicholls lays down a bunch of flowers at a memorial in Manoora. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

The friends say Aunty Mali had some months earlier torn out her part of Milili's hair, leaving her deeply embarrassed and forced to shave her entire head, which was now growing back.

What her friends may have missed was that things were falling to pieces inside Malili's home, as she increasingly took responsibility for her younger siblings.

The people who wandered into the park next to the cordoned-off home yesterday were neighbours and friends who knew the family, or strangers who came by to lay flowers.

On Friday, two men, understood to be respectively the fathers of the older and younger children, came to the scene to assist police with identification. One of the men was seen falling to his knees outside the house, asking: "Why me?"

Aerial view ... the scene in Cairns where the eight children were murdered. Picture: Brian Cassey Source: News Corp Australia

On the face of it, the Murray St area does not look like such a bad address. There are many worse-looking public housing areas in Australia. Here, they have large backyards and room for kids to run.

Up the road, yesterday morning, a woman who gave her name as Natasha, says Warria, whom she described a a cousin was normally a nice person.

Natasha says Murray St gets a bad rap. "The cops make it seem bad."

But no one works, she says, and she doesn't even know how much rent she pays – it comes straight out of her dole.

"It's not as bad as it seems," she says, taking a slug from her Jim Beam mixer can, at 6.45am.


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