The Miles family were known in Margaret River as loving people, well liked and well respected around town. So what could have gone so horribly wrong on Friday morning at 1422 Osmington Road?
The details emerging of the family of seven — three adults and four children — shot dead on the property near the world-famous holiday town of Margaret River shed few clues as to what could have motivated one of them to violently attack the others, murdering them in their houses before turning the gun on themself.
In a cruel piece of timing, many in the town will spend Mother’s Day today mourning the loss of four local children, their mother and grandmother, while grappling with questions that may never be answered.
Shooting leaves community reeling
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson travelled to the quiet South West surf town yesterday to survey the crime scene, and start to explain to the community and the country what police believe happened on that fateful morning.
He confirmed that after attending a triple-0 call made by a man connected to the property, they found seven people dead from gunshot wounds, six of whom they believe were murdered.
The bodies of four children and an adult were found in a shed that had been renovated to become a second living space, while a woman’s body was also found in the main house.
The seventh body was found outside, and helicopter footage of the property showed what appeared to be the body of an older man slumped in a chair on the veranda outside.
Three guns which belong to 61-year-old Peter Miles were also found at the scene.
While the police investigation is ongoing and forensic investigators have not formally identified the bodies, Commissioner Dawson took the unusual step of naming the people who homicide detectives are confident are the deceased.
They included Katrina Miles, 35, and her four children Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and 8-year-old Kayden Cockman, along with grandmother Cynda Miles, 58 and grandfather Peter Miles.
Quiet grandfather a mystery to many locals
Locals have described Cynda Miles as a friendly and community-minded woman who was well known and well liked.
But much less is known about her husband, Peter — Katrina’s father and grandfather to the four children.
Peter Miles has been described by some locals as a lovely, hardworking man, but others recalled a more quiet character who they did not know well.
Mr Miles worked in the farm school at Margaret River Senior High School for more than 20 years, with former students recounting the practical knowledge he passed on giving lessons on driving tractors, handling farm equipment and keeping livestock. The high school has declined to speak with the media.
More recently Mr Miles had been touting for work, offering his skills doing farm maintenance and odd jobs on neighbours’ properties.
A hobby farm dream
Peter and Cynda Miles had lived in a house on Cabernet Place in Margaret River town, before selling up in 2015 and moving to a 12-hectare property on Osmington Road on the outskirts of town, where they started a hobby farm.
It was at that property where Cynda Miles hosted popular community sewing bees to make environmentally-friendly shopping bags.
A spokeswoman for community group Transition Town Margaret River (TMR) said she will be sorely missed.
“Cynda was a committed environmentalist who gave so much of herself to the community — sewing Boomerang Bags, coordinating the annual Sustainability Pavilion, contributing generously to Swap Shuffle Share, taking part as a ‘hub’ member of TMR, and so much more,” she said.
“She was always there for us with a big smile and a warm hug, scones, home-made jam, pots of seedlings, baskets of produce, enthusiasm and love. She touched all our lives.”
Tough times brought a family together
Also on Peter and Cynda Miles’s farm was a shed, which friends have told the ABC was renovated to become a living space to accommodate their daughter, Katrina Miles, and her four children after they moved in following a family break-up.
Ms Miles’s four children had autism spectrum disorder. They had spent time attending the local school but were later withdrawn to be home-schooled by their mother.
A spokeswoman for the South West Home Schooling Network described Katrina Miles as a dedicated and supportive member of their group.
“Her wealth of knowledge and willingness to share her passion for home education was something that we are all incredibly grateful for,” she said.
“Every member of the South West Home Schooling Network has been touched by the Miles family and we are heartbroken to lose someone that had such an incredible impact on the community.
“Our thoughts are with her family at this time as they grieve the loss of a beautiful mother and her precious babies.”
Another local woman who was a friend of both Katrina Miles and Cynda Miles, who did not want to be named, described Katrina as a dedicated and beautiful mother to her equally beautiful children.
“She was just the best mother and the nicest person, if you walked into her she always had a beautiful word to say and would stop to chat or grab a coffee if she had time,” she said.
“She was a good person and a kind and a gentle person, and so was the grandmother, they were beautiful people.
“Cynda was very kind, very giving and community minded.”
She said, however, that she rarely saw Cynda’s husband Peter and did not know him well. She said he was not an outgoing fellow.
Tears in the street as shock hits town
Another Margaret River Local, Phil Armstrong, said everyone in town knew of Cynda Miles and her family because she was so active in the community.
“The hairs on my arms where standing up all day yesterday, it really grabbed me because of the kids involved,” he said.
“I just ran into a woman I know and had to give her a big hug because she just started bawling her eyes out.
“The same thing happened yesterday with another bloke I know.”
Red Cross counselling services remain available to the public at the Margaret River Community Centre, where friends have also been placing floral tributes.
WA Premier Mark McGowan is expected to visit the region today to offer his support.
Meanwhile, as the town tries to overcome the shock of such a tragedy, the property is set to remain a crime scene for days as detectives and forensic experts try to answer the questions left swirling around the worst mass shooting in Australia in 22 years.
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