Police have arrested a 59-year-old local man and expect to charge him with murder after a shooting in rural Queensland left three dead and another critically injured.
The local man is expected to be charged over the incident that killed three people from the same family on a rural property at Bogie, north-west of Mackay, on Thursday morning.
A fourth victim is recovering in hospital from a gunshot wound to his stomach.
Two other people who were being held by police, understood to be family of the man in custody, have been released.
The victims have been identified as husband and wife Mervyn and Maree Schwarz, and Ms Schwarz’s son Graham Tighe.
They are believed to have bought the $10 million cattle property only within the past year.
Mr Tighe’s brother Ross was recovering in hospital and had been interviewed by police, acting Superintendent Tom Armitt told the Nine Network on Friday.
“What we do know is that the parties involved are neighbours and some conversation has occurred between the parties,” he said.
The neighbours are believed to have met at the boundary line of their properties early on Thursday morning, at the 59-year-old’s invitation.
“We understand that there was a conversation that had occurred the night before, which was the reason why the parties had met at the gate on the property in the morning,” Superintendent Armitt said.
The properties are very remote, each covering thousands of hectares, and the neighbours live about 45 minutes apart. The gate where Thursday’s shooting occurred is about three kilometres from the main residence on the Schwarzes’ property.
Ross Tighe apparently fled the scene of the shooting in a car, driving 40 kilometres to raise the alarm. He was later flown to Mackay Base Hospital, where he had emergency surgery for critical injuries.
Superintendent Armitt said because of the distances involved and Mr Tighe’s injured state, there was early confusion about the crime scene’s location.
“We had a small team of police who drove forward into the crime scene at that time, not knowing whether the armed offender was present or not, putting their lives in grave danger – especially when the report was that the people had been shot with a rifle and that they were in danger of being shot from any distance whilst approaching the crime scene,” he said.
“That was slow and meticulous work and extremely brave of the officers who were involved at that time.”
Police locked down the area surrounding the rural cattle properties, before sweeping the area. It was “a number of hours” before police located the crime scene.
The 59-year-old man and two other people were later found on his property and taken into custody. Superintendent Armitt said the man was a long-term resident of the area, and known to police.
He said there was no suggestion the man had fled the scene.
Ms Schwarz’s brother-in-law Greg Austen, a councillor on the Isaac Regional Council, said she and her husband were well-known and loved in the area.
“They certainly loved the area, which was very tragic for them,” he told the ABC.
“They were terrific, down to earth, typical country people.
“They were typical ‘pumpkin scones and a few beers on a Friday’ people.
“We’re just devastated. We didn’t believe it at first … we didn’t realise it was that tragic.”
Cr Austen said Ross Tighe remained in hospital but was out of surgery and extended family were on the way to be with him.
“It was very strong of him to do that, to go that far and raise the alarm,” he said.
“They were just a terrific family. This has wrecked the lives of many people.”
Whitsunday councillor Mike Brunker said the small community would be relieved a suspect was in custody. Just 207 people call the tiny community of Bogie home.
“I think these people had only moved over here 12 months ago from out west … just an absolute tragic situation,” he told the Seven Network on Friday.
The attack has rattled the normally the quiet mining town in the Whitsundays. Some locals earlier told The Courier Mail newspaper of a “property dispute” between two landholders in the area.
Earlier, one woman working in nearby Collinsville said the entire community was in shock.
“The whole town is a bit rattled that something like that could happen here,” she said.
“It’s a small town. Everyone knows everyone.”
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said the shooting was particularly confronting given Australia’s strong gun laws.
“This is a tragedy on so many levels and obviously there’s a police investigation, hopefully that investigation is completed soon so that we can provide closure to the family who have lost loved ones in particular in this case,” he said on Friday.