The relatives of four children murdered by their grandfather in Australia’s worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre have called for a West Australian Parliamentary committee to investigate the incident.

The children’s mother, 35-year-old Katrina Miles and their 58-year-old grandmother Cynda were also shot in a farmhouse in Osmington on the outskirts of the tourist town of Margaret River in May 2018.

Ms Miles’s 61-year-old father, Peter Miles, had long been named as the killer.

Attorney General John Quigley today publicly confirmed for the first time it was obvious from the evidence he had seen that Mr Miles committed the crime, before taking his own life.

The murders were the worst mass shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people died and another 23 were seriously injured by lone gunman Martin Bryant.

Aaron Cockman, the father of the four children — Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and Kayden, 8 — had initially wanted a coronial inquest into the murders.

But state Coroner Ros Fogliani rejected his request as “not desirable” and said “all relevant lines of inquiry have been followed and that a coroner is now able to make the required findings about the deaths on the evidence that has already been obtained”.

Family members pose for a wedding photo in front of trees and shrubs.
The Miles family (rear) Katrina Miles and Cynda Miles, and children (front) Rylan, Kayden, Taye and Ayre were killed by Peter Miles (second from the left).(Facebook: Katrina Miles)

‘We’ve got to prevent children from dying’

Mr Cockman, who was estranged from Ms Miles, then asked Mr Quigley to direct Ms Fogliani to conduct an inquest into how the family law system managed and supported the family.

But after meeting with Mr Quigley today Mr Miles said he now thought a coronial inquest would not give him the answers he wanted and a parliamentary committee was the better option.

Aaron Cockman wearing a dark blue shirt in focus with John Quigley out of focus on the side.
Mr Cockman says he wants to see changes to how domestic disputes are dealt with in the legal system.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Mr Quigley said he did not have the power to overturn the coroner’s decision. He has written to Liberal MP Peter Katsambanis, the chair of the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee, requesting he hold a public inquiry into the matter.

Mr Cockman said he hoped changes would stem from an investigation by a committee’s into WA’s family law system.

“I want families to stay out of the law court system, for a start,” he said.

Katrina Miles stands with trees in the background with her four children.
Katrina Miles and her four children lived in Osmington near Margaret River in WA’s South West.(Facebook: Katrina Miles)

“That’s just a no-go area,” he said.

“I mean, this is what can happen.

“We’ve got to prevent children from dying in the future. That’s all I’m looking at.

“A parliamentary committee, they can look into this in depth and … for years and years beforehand. And look and go, ‘This is what’s gone wrong here, here and here, the lawyers got involved, things spiralled out of control at this point.

“There was no one there to bring it all back together and try and help the families, help the children, it was all about making money.

“Of course Peter Miles is to blame. But what causes that to happen in the first place? That’s what I want everyone to get together and look at this situation.”

A rural property with a water tank and caravan visible among trees.
The mass killing took place in Osmington, outside Margaret River.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Mr Cockman’s father Phil said the family law system did not work.

“In 2015 I said there’s going to be mass murders and killings.

“But there’s no body and no organisation that I can talk to. I clearly marked it, clearly said it’s going to be bigger, nationwide. Because I could see what was happening.”

Mental health the key factor, Miles family says

The Miles family issued a statement thanking Mr Quigley for not overturning the coroner’s decision to not hold an inquest into the tragedy.

They supported his decision to ask a  parliamentary committee if an inquiry into the Family Court in WA is needed.

A woman stands in front of a local craft stall wearing an orange t-shirt, navy cardigan and name badge.
Cynda Miles was killed, along with her daughter and four grandchildren, in 2018.(Supplied)

Neil Miles, the son of Peter and Cynda Miles, brother to Katrina Miles and uncle to the four children, said the family was still deeply affected by what happened.

“The Coroner’s report shows that Peter Miles mental health was the key factor in the tragedy rather than an act of domestic violence,” he said.

“It was an act at odds with everything about Peter’s character which stood for family.

“Mental health issues can break a person’s character, pulling them apart, using low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

“It can remove rationality and replace it with irrational thoughts that probably seemed logical at that point in time, but were of course, clearly illogical.

“As a family we continue to put one foot in front of the other in the hope we can eventually recover.”

Inquiry will need to wait until after election

Mr Quigley said a parliamentary committee inquiry would not involve the expense of hiring lawyers.

“(It) would give the family a venue, an opportunity to put all of their concerns about the management of their family circumstances which led to this tragedy before the committee in the hope wider recommendations can be made to prevent a further tragedy happening,” he said.

Mr Quigley said the committee would not be able to conduct any inquiry in this term of parliament and would have to wait until after the election.

A bespectacled John Quigley wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie with pink polka dots.
Attorney General John Quigley says he has written to the chair of a Parliamentary committee to hold an inquiry.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Mr Katsambanis agreed, but he added the current committee would be dissolved before the election and new members appointed after.

He said whoever was the attorney general at that point would have to write to the committee again and request the inquiry.

Report could lead to changes, lawyer says

Family lawyer Marty Kavanagh said given Mr Quigley’s inability to order an inquest, a parliamentary investigation was a good idea to see if lessons could be learned from the tragedy.

“It certainly seems sensible to me,” he said.

“I understand the father’s frustration, it’s a shocking, shocking thing that happened.

“There could be many things that may have played a part, including internal dynamics and so on.”

A weatherboard house near bushland with sheep in a paddock in the foreground.
Family lawyer Marty Kavanagh says lessons could be learned from the tragedy.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

He said any report from a parliamentary committee was likely to be carefully examined by the Family Court, which could then use its discretion on whether to adopt any of its recommendations and change any of its procedures.

The report could also lead to changes to the Family Court Act governing the court, he said.

“It would be beneficial to see if there is anything in the family law system that could be changed to prevent it happening again,” Mr Kavanagh said.



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