Six people, including two police officers, have been shot dead after a suspected ambush at a remote Australian property.
Police said they had been searching for a missing person in Wieambilla – 270km (168 miles) west of Brisbane, Queensland – when they were fired upon.
After a lengthy siege, three suspects were fatally shot by police. A motive remains unclear, authorities said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called it a “heartbreaking day” for Australia.
Four Queensland police officers initially went to the property on Monday afternoon local time, after a request from New South Wales police.
Constables Matthew Arnold, 26, and Rachel McCrow, 29, were shot dead as they approached. Another officer suffered a “bullet graze” and the fourth escaped the property, police said.
An unnamed neighbour, aged 58, was also killed by the suspects during the siege after going to investigate.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll described it as an “unimaginable tragedy” and the force’s largest loss of life in a single incident in many years.
“Those officers did not stand a chance. The fact that two got out alive is a miracle,” she said after visiting the scene on Tuesday.
Mr Arnold and Ms McCrow were relatively new to the police force but both had earned a reputation for being committed and courageous, Ms Carroll said. “Both under 30 years of age. Both had wonderful careers and lives ahead of them,” she said, visibly emotional.
A group of 16 local officers had “bravely” tried to rescue the pair, hoping they were still alive, before specialist police arrived and took over the operation, she said. The siege continued for hours, before the suspects – two men and one woman who have not been named – were shot.
With investigations ongoing, Ms Carroll said she couldn’t say if police were lured to the property, or comment on a possible motive. She said “many weapons” were used during the incident.
Local media reported that the officers were ambushed and Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers alleged they were killed “in cold blood”. “They were met by gunfire which was just relentless,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “They were executed.”
Local MP David Littleproud said the attack had left his community “numb”. “[These] are small country towns where this sort of thing just doesn’t happen,” he said. The deaths will be investigated by the coroner and the police response will be examined by the force’s ethical standards command, in line with standard practice.