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News in 5: Family of Perth murder victims speaks; PM snubbed; Trump rejects hurricane toll.

With AAP.

1. Relatives of Bedford murder victims learned of their deaths from television news.


A woman whose sister, mother and three nieces were killed in their home in Bedford, Perth, has told media she learned about their deaths while watching the news.

Taryn Tottman and her husband Alan told ABC News they turned on the television on Sunday to see footage featuring the home of her sister, Mara Harvey, in a story about a murder investigation.

“I turned the TV on and I saw my sister’s fence and I knew it was her fence,” Taryn Tottman said. “Part of me didn’t think it was real.”

The bodies of 41-year-old Mara, her mother Beverly Ann Quinn, three-year-old daughter Charlotte and two-year-old twins Alice and Beatrix were discovered earlier that day in the home in the city’s northeast.

Bedford Perth family murder
Beverly with her grandchildren. Image: Facebook.
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Mara's husband and the children's father, 24-year-old Anthony Robert Harvey, has been charged with five counts of murder. Police will allege he killed his wife and children on Monday and took his 73-year-old mother-in-law's life the following day. They believe he remained in the house with the bodies for several days before travelling to a remote Pilbara town and reporting to police.

Alan Tottman told ABC News he wasn't aware of "trouble or problems" in the family prior to the alleged murders.

"It is just unfathomable, we can't come to terms with what has happened," he said. "We don't know why it has happened."

He and his wife said the horrific events have been difficult to explain to their young children.

“Grandma’s gone, Aunty Mara is gone. I think they understand that,” Mr Tottman told 9 News.

Anthony Harvey has been remanded in custody.

2. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been snubbed with the Wentworth candidate pick.

David Sharma. Image: Dept. of Foreign Affairs.

Former Australian ambassador to Israel, David Sharma, has been pre-selected by the Liberal Party to contest the Wentworth by-election, despite Canberra lobbying for a woman to be picked.

Mr Sharma beat out seven other candidates in the vote that stretched into the early hours of Friday morning, including Katherine O'Regan, who was backed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He will now face a tough by-election battle, with early polling indicating a big swing against the Liberals, who have never lost the seat.

Scores of party faithful filed into the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Club in Rose Bay to decide who will contest the seat, only emerging seven hours later.

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Ms O'Regan was originally tipped to get the Liberal Party nod after frontrunner Andrew Bragg pulled out of the contest under mounting pressure from Canberra, but it was Mr Sharma who emerged the winner at 1.30am.

"We have a tough fight ahead of us to hold onto this seat, but I'll be throwing my all into it and I believe we can retain it and retain a Liberal government in Canberra," Mr Sharma told reporters.

Mr Sharma is understood to have come under pressure to pull out of the pre-selection battle as party power brokers pushed for a woman to be selected.

But Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly called Mr Sharma from New York, urging him to stay in the race amid mounting pressure to bail out.

He was also encouraged to stand firm by former prime minister John Howard, according to Fairfax.

Mr Bragg quit the race on Monday, saying he hoped it would pave the way for a woman. It is also understood he agreed to pull out in exchange for a safe spot on the party's Senate ticket.

Polling commissioned by Mr Bragg suggested a woman had a better chance of winning the by-election, and also indicated the seat could be lost to a strong independent.

Same sex marriage campaigner and City of Sydney councillor Kerryn Phelps is still considering a tilt at the seat, but is yet to confirm her intention to run.

Pre-selection candidate and former member for Wentworth Peter King said he respected the party's decision, but wasn't surprised a man was selected in the end.

"The decision was made on the merits and that's the way it should be," Mr King told AAP as he left the rugby club.

Labor has selected businessman and Tamarama Surf Lifesaving president Tim Murray to run in the seat.

Mr Morrison said pre-selectors had a very important job, given the "very difficult" circumstances around the by-election.

"I think this is going to be a very close fight," he told reporters on Thursday.

The by-election will be held on October 20.

3. Donald Trump rejects Puerto Rico death toll of 3000 from Hurricane Maria.

Image: Getty.

US President Donald Trump has rejected the widely accepted death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and claimed without citing evidence that "3000 people did not die".

Trump called the death toll a plot by Democrats to make him look bad.

The president tweeted on Thursday as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas.

"When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths," Trump said.

"As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000..."

Puerto Rico's governor raised the US territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found the number of people who died in the aftermath had been severely under-counted.

However Trump implied the death toll was revised for political reasons.

"This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico," he tweeted.

Maria devastated the island in September 2017 and knocked out the entire electricity grid.

Researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.

The elderly and impoverished were hardest hit by the hurricane.

The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital accused Trump of being "delusional".

"Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted.

"Damn it: this is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES."

Cruz maintains the federal government's response to the hurricane was slow and inadequate while Trump said it was a success.

4. The hunt continues for the strawberry needling culprit.

needle in strawberry

Police are still searching for the culprit who hid sewing needles inside of strawberry stocks from a Sunshine Coast-based supplier.

A fourth punnet of strawberries inserted with needles was discovered on Thursday by a Gladstone woman whose son bit into a contaminated berry he'd taken to school in his lunch box.

It comes a day after consumers in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales were urged to throw out berries bought in the past week following three similar incidents, one in Queensland and two in Victoria.

The Warmuran farm which supplied the berries under the brand names Berry Obsession and Berry Licious, was inspected by Queensland police and Australian Border Force officers on Thursday.

An investigation is also under way after a Coles employee found a small metal rod laying across the top of some strawberries inside a plastic punnet on the shelves of a Gatton store.

Police have cast doubt on the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association theory a disgruntled farm worker may be responsible.

Consumers are being told to cut up strawberries to make sure they are safe to eat and police want anyone who finds a needle to contact them.

5. A life insurer set a private investigator to secretly record a woman's every move.

A private investigator ordered by insurer TAL to dig up dirt on a customer spent months following the woman and secretly recording her every move.

The life insurance company spent years fighting the woman's claim under her income protection policy after depression and anxiety meant she could no longer work as a nurse.

TAL's bullying and treatment of the woman, including demanding that she repay $69,000, caused her considerable distress, the banking royal commission heard.

An ombudsman forced TAL to overturn its initial move to cancel the policy in 2012, after it wrongly accused her of having a history of work-related stress and failing to disclose it when she applied for the insurance.

All up it took three years, until 2013, for the woman to start receiving her $2750 monthly benefit.

But then a TAL staffer, one of multiple case managers making what the company admitted were multiple inappropriate decisions, did a Google search and found the woman had written a book.

Another case manager instructed the private investigator to get "results" and suggested he "complete a pretext at the hospital", although the inquiry heard it was not clear if that meant posing as a family member or friend.

The case manager wanted the private investigator to find information so TAL could avoid paying an estimated $792,000 if the woman continued receiving benefits until she was 65.

The detailed and sustained surveillance campaign conducted over four months involved extensive searches of social media sites such as Facebook.

The woman had no idea she was being followed, photographed and videoed by a private investigator who was recording her every move, the inquiry heard on Thursday.

The investigator's report included details and footage of the woman having breakfast, kissing her partner and taking her clothes off to reveal her bathers at a swimming pool.

Senior TAL executive Loraine van Eeden agreed the surveillance was deeply inappropriate.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr QC said it was not how an insurance company should treat a person who had qualified for benefits under an income protection policy on the basis of a mental health condition.

Ms van Eeden said: "It's not how to treat any claimant."

TAL then forced the woman to fill out a daily activity diary so she could continue receiving her benefits, despite medical evidence that it exacerbated her condition and she was suffering severe anxiety attacks.

Ms van Eeden said the threat to stop the woman's benefits if she did not submit the daily diary was "absolutely bullying".

TAL told the woman in 2014 it was cancelling her cover, accused her of fraud and demanded she repay the $68,890 she had received in benefits.

They were not the only shocks in the letter, which was also the first time TAL revealed its surveillance to the woman.

Ms van Eeden agreed the letter would have caused considerable distress to the woman.

"I was shocked when I saw this," TAL's general manager of claims said.

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