Community rocked by Easter tragedy
Emotional scenes in a Watsonia neighbourhood as investigators return to the home where two young sisters were killed on Sunday afternoon.PT1M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36zlw 620 349 April 21, 2014
The family of two sisters killed on Easter Sunday in Melbourne's north-east has released a statement expressing their devastation about their loss.
They also released photos of the smiling sisters, Savannah, 4, and Indianna, 3, holding hands and playing with their mother.
"We are utterly devastated at the loss of Savannah and Indianna," the family's statement said.
The double-fronted home where the sisters died on Easter Sunday had the semblance of calm on Monday morning. Photo: Penny Stephens
"The girls will be forever missed, loved and never forgotten."
They also asked for privacy while they grieve.
The 35-year-old father of the two girls has been charged with their murder.
'We are utterly devastated at the loss of Savannah and Indianna,' the family's statement said.
The girls were found dead at a house in Watsonia. Police arrested a man at the scene on Sunday afternoon.
The girls were at their grandmother's Longmuir Road house at the time.
Police issued a statement early on Monday saying Charles Mihayo, of Watsonia, had been charged with the murder of both girls and remanded in custody to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Police have yet to reveal how the children died or give details of any injuries.
A number of family members were at the home at the time the incident unfolded.
The two little sisters had been seen around the neighbourhood during regular visits with their father, who lived in a flat behind his former mother-in-law’s house.
Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the tragedy had touched many.
He said what was supposed to have been a long weekend filled with family get-togethers had ended in tragedy.
‘‘It’s a time for families to get together and enjoy each other’s company, and this will have a significant impact on friends, on family,’’ he said.
‘‘A number of our police members have been in tears. This is a tragic set of circumstances.
"There were a number of family members here at the time," Assistant Commissioner Crisp said at the scene.
"It's naturally impacted on friends, neighbours and also on members of the fire brigade, the ambulance services and members of Victoria Police who have attended the scene."
A friend of the girls’ mother said he is in shock about what’s happened.
‘‘I just can’t believe it,’’ he said. ‘‘She’s always talking about her kids. She’s always dotting on them. They were like the apple of her eye.’’
He said their mother was working full-time so the two children had to be put in childcare every day since they weren’t old enough for school, but still remained a regular topic of conversation.
‘‘It was every day things. A lot of her conversations were about the kids, what happened at playschool, at home, just every day things,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a terrible thing that’s happened. She’s such a nice girl. I can’t get it out of my mind.’’
He said he never met her ex-husband, who is now charged with two counts of murder.
‘‘By the time I met her, about two years ago, they had already split up.’’
Police were called to the home about 2.40pm. Paramedics arrived soon after and treated the girls for some time.
As shocked neighbours looked at the house behind crime scene tape, friends of the family, who knew the girls’ mother, began gathering at the scene.
Some of them embraced each other while others cried.
One man in the group, who gave his name only as Mark, said he had been the best man at the wedding of the children’s parents, but the couple had split more than a year ago.
He hadn’t been able to speak with the girls’ mother since the girls died and hadn’t spoken to the girls’ father in a while either.
A neighbour said the incident was hard to comprehend.
"[I feel] sick to the stomach," he said.
"It's really hard to believe this could happen in a quiet little suburban street."
One neighbour recalled hearing screams in the early afternoon.
‘‘There were a couple of screams, a woman, that’s all I heard. And then the police were there,’’ said the neighbour, who declined to be named.
‘‘This is just terrible,’’ said David, who didn’t want to give his last name, as he arrived to see the street flooded with police and paramedics.
David and his wife said they knew the elderly woman who lived in the home and were holding out hope it wasn’t her grandchildren who had been killed.
‘‘It’s really sad if that’s the case,’’ said David’s wife, who did not want to be named. ‘‘She’s a lovely lady.’’
Ben Cameron, who lives five doors down from the home, said he often saw the two girls playing in the area.
‘‘I’m a bit scared, to be honest. I just don’t know how I feel about it,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve seen those kids before. I know the family. I’ve just seen them around. It’s pretty frightening and scary.’’
The girls’ deaths have shocked the neighbourhood, which Rachel Fish, a resident who lives a few doors away from the house, said had ‘‘always been a quiet area for families’’.
‘‘The wildest thing that’s happened around here is the occasional teenage party.’’
Helen Temple, of Watsonia, arrived early on Monday morning to pay tribute to the slain children.
Ms Temple, who is also a mother, said through tears that she wanted to leave a flower for the "poor things".
"I heard it on the news, and just thought to put a flower for the girls," she said.
"I have daughters too, and it's so sad.
"Hope they rest in peace, poor things."
The simple white flower, wedged between the bars of the metal white fence, was the only sign that anything was amiss in the otherwise idyllic street.
Two more locals came to pay their respects late on Monday morning.
A small girl and an older man walked up to the white fence, and placed vibrant pink flowers just outside the house before walking quietly away.
A woman walking a small dog and a young boy riding a bike dropped off a small bouquet of white and orange flowers.
Like many others, the woman declined to comment.
Police arrived just before 9am to continue their investigation.
Three people dressed in grey-and-blue hooded tops arrived at the home just before 9.30am in a blue four-wheel-drive. What appeared to be two men and a woman were then ushered into the house by police.
One later returned to the 4WD to retrieve a maroon duffel bag.
A neighbour left the house about 9.35am, carrying a box filled with what appeared to be blue towels.
With Caroline Zielinski