Australian dad charged with killing his children in fire

Sydney, July 11: An Australian father has been charged with murdering three of his children and attempting to kill the rest of his family in a house fire.

A five-month-old girl, a two-year-old boy and a six-year-old boy died in the blaze. Three boys and a girl – aged between four and 11 – survived, along with their mother.

The 28-year-old man is facing three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and one charge of destroying property with the intent to endanger life. He remains in hospital under police guard.

The fire has horrified the country and comes at a time when Australia’s government has declared domestic and family violence a “national crisis”.

The father – who police allege started the inferno in the early hours of Sunday morning and then blocked rescue attempts – was represented by his lawyer in a local Sydney court on Thursday and did not apply for bail.

Speaking to media afterwards, New South Wales Det Supt Daniel Doherty said the incident is “one of the worst cases of filicide” – which is when a parent intentionally kills their children – to take place in the state.

He said police will allege the father lit fires throughout the house with the use of an “accelerant” such as petrol and then locked all the doors inside to prevent his family from escaping.

They also intend to argue that he disrupted rescue efforts by concerned neighbours and first responders who helped the four surviving children and their mother from the burning house.

In one instance, Det Supt Doherty said the man was “holding on to” one of the children as he tried to escape, which meant first responders had to “wrestle the boy from his grasp”.

The five-month-old baby girl was found by paramedics, already deceased. The two- and six-year-old boys made it out of the house in a critical condition but died in hospital a short time later.

Police have commended the residents who assisted the family for their bravery, including Jarrod Hawkins, a man living across the road who pulled three of the children from the flames.

The mother has been released from hospital and police say her four surviving children are all in a stable condition.

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