Six people, including two police officers, have been killed in a shooting at a remote home in the Australian state of Queensland.
Constables Matthew Arnold, 26, and Rachel McCrow, 29, had called the property to investigate reports of a missing person.
But when they approached the entrance, they came under fire of two heavily armed offenders, who were allegedly dressed in camouflage uniforms.
Reinforcements and air support responded to the ambush and, after a six-hour standoff, the two suspects and one other person were finally shot.
A member of the public – a neighbor who tried to come to the aid of the officers – was also killed in the initial attack, and two other officers were taken to hospital.
According to the Australian newspaper, one of them was shot in the leg and was able to escape from the property to raise the alarm, while the fourth fled into the bushes to hide from the armed men.
The newspaper reported that a police source allegedly said that after the two officers were seriously injured, one or both gunmen then stood over the couple and fired at them “in the mode of execution where they lay”.
They said: “A witness reported seeing two people in camouflage uniforms standing over them and shooting them again. Then they took their guns.”
Queensland Police have not officially released the identity of the attackers, but local media said they were former school principal Nathaniel Train, 46, his brother Gareth Train and an unidentified woman.
“Lives cruelly cut short”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the incident as “a terrible and heartbreaking day for the families and friends of Queensland Police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty”.
He said: “I pay my respects to them. I also pay my respects to their surviving fellow officers…In addition, I pay my respects to a neighbor driven by an instinct to help, Alan Dare, who also lost his life in this tragedy.
“Three lives sorely cut short. It is, indeed, a devastating day for all who loved these Australians.”
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the shooting, in Wieambilla, about 300km (186 miles) northwest of Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, was the biggest loss of life that police in state has suffered in an incident lately.
She vowed that the circumstances surrounding the deaths would be investigated.