CAIRNS, Australia — A judge on Monday rejected a plea by lawyers for an Australia woman charged with killing eight children to have the next hearing held in a mental health court.
Mersane Warria, charged under her full name of Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, is facing eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her northern Australia home last week.
Police were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday 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 was suffering from stab wounds in her chest.
Warria, 37, did not attend a brief hearing at Cairns Magistrates Court on Monday because she was recovering from her injuries in a hospital.
Magistrate Alan Comans rejected a request from Warria’s lawyer, Steve MacFarlane, to hold the next hearing in a mental health court. Criminal cases are sometimes referred to such courts if the defendant is thought to be mentally ill or has an intellectual disability. The court then decides what the defendant’s mental state was when the offense was committed.
Outside court, MacFarlane said his client was expected to be examined by psychiatrists and that the case could still be heard in mental health court after that assessment was completed.
“I think she probably knows what happened but doesn’t realize 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.”
The case has been adjourned until Jan. 30.
Police haven’t said how the children died, but Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said that they’re examining several knives in the home that may have been the weapon used to kill them. Suffocation was also a possible cause of death, he said.
“We are considering that and that’s why it’s taking a bit of time,” he said on Sunday. “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. They collected more than 100 witness statements, Asnicar said. A coroner was conducting autopsies, but police would not release the results because the case is now a matter for the courts, he said.
The children, four girls and four boys, ranged in age from 2 to 14. Warria is the mother of seven of them; the eighth is her niece.
Police were not looking for any other suspects, Asnicar said.
“This is very raw and it is a very emotive time for everybody,” he said. “The family is deeply upset but the community is pulling together.”
Asked how the children’s five fathers were coping with the tragedy, Ascinar replied: “I don’t think we need much imagination to understand how they are feeling.”
Dozens of weeping mourners visited a makeshift memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and candles set up in a park next to the family’s home. “My babies, my babies,” one man wailed.
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 standoff. Police had earlier said there were 17 hostages in the cafe, but revised the number after a new count.