Mum, kids killed in arson attack
POLICE are investigating who lit a house fire in Canberra after the bodies of a mother and two children were found inside the home.
It's understood the woman, believed to be in her 40s, and her two children, a boy and girl believed to be aged under seven, were deceased when firefighters arrived at the home on Peter Copping St, north of Canberra, yesterday morning.
ACT Police Criminal Investigations Superintendent Scott Moller, who described the scene as horrific, said authorities were now investigating the circumstances around their death and working to determine who had lit the fire.
Police were following a number of leads as part of the "complex investigation", he said, but no one was in custody yet.
He said there were multiple points were the fire may have started.
Superintendent Moller said fire crews had seen the three bodies inside the home on their initial sweep.
"They fought the fire through the house, identified a number of people in the house but their belief was that they were deceased and [they] extracted themselves due to smoke and heat," he said.
Police are now working to formally identify the three people.
Next of kin are also yet to be identified.
The superintendent said the house was not previously known to police, and that they would examine the ownership of the house as one of many lines of inquiry.
The family's next door neighbour Madeline Lowicki was shocked and devastated by the tragedy.
"Last night I couldn't sleep well," she told reporters in Canberra.
"I couldn't believe that the children had died."
Ms Lowicki and other neighbours said the family, who had lived at the home for more than four years, were private and mostly kept to themselves.
Lisa Gautusa, a mother who lives directly across the road from the family, saw flames and smoke pouring from the roof yesterday morning around 8.45am.
The windows were blacked out with smoke and neighbours who checked the residence could not see anyone inside.
Her family were horrified to learn the family were inside.
"We're just hugging our children more," she said.
Police officers remained at the home this morning, which remains an active crime scene.
The three bodies were removed overnight and a formal identification process will continue today.
Forensic officers from the Australian Federal Police and detectives were at the property today.
The Salvation Army also sent officers to provide support to neighbours.
Superintendent Moller said yesterday: "Police located a house that was engulfed by flames."
"ACT Fire and Rescue extinguished those flames and secured the premises for us.
"Police entered the premises and searched the house, during that search police tragically located three persons. This matter will be ongoing for us."
A report will be prepared for the Coroner.