Six dead after siege in rural Australia

13 Dec 2022 10:10am
Photo for illustration purposes only - Source: 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only - Source: 123RF

SYDNEY - Six people have died, including two police officers in their twenties, during a shootout in the Australian state of Queensland, police said Tuesday.

Late Monday afternoon, a group of officers was called to a tree-lined property in the small town of Wieambilla as part of a missing persons investigation.

"As soon as they entered the property, they were inundated with gunfire and they never had a chance," said Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers.

"Two police officers were executed in cold blood," he said.

The deceased were identified as 26-year-old Rachel McCrow and 29-year-old Matthew Arnold. Both were constables, starting their police careers in the last two years.

"Those officers paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep our community safe," said Queensland Police Commander Katarina Carroll, holding back tears as she briefed the public on the "extraordinarily distressing" events.

Two other officers survived and were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

One of the survivors, Constable Keeley Brough, sent frantic messages to loved ones believing she would die, local media reported.

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Following an initial clatter of gunshots, a specialist police team of more than a dozen officers with air support was rushed to the scene.

After an hours-long siege, by 10:30 pm local time, two male suspects and one female suspect were dead.

Aerial images from the scene showed a zinc-roofed bungalow and a burned-out car on the property.

A 58-year-old neighbour believed to have investigated the scene was also shot and "declared deceased at the location", according to police.

Investigations are under way into the incident and police handling of the situation.

Mass shootings are rare in Australia, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.

A ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons has been in place since a 1996 mass shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania in which a lone gunman killed 35 people.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the scenes in Wieambilla as "terrible".

It was, he said, a "heartbreaking day for the families and friends of the Queensland Police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty".

Queensland officials have ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at government buildings.

Police did not reveal the identities of the dead suspects. - Andrew Beatty / AFP