Editor’s note: This post deals with suicide. Some readers may find the article triggering.
By ELISSA RATLIFF
People are reeling after news broke that a man living on a property in rural NSW allegedly murdered his wife and three children before taking his own life.
Nurse Kim Hunt, 41 was found dead on the footpath outside the family house near Lockhart, west of Wagga Wagga, on Tuesday afternoon. Her three children, Fletcher, 10, Mia, 8 and Phoebe, 6 were found inside the house. Media reports indicate the four members of the Hunt family had allegedly been shot dead.
Kim Hunt’s husband – the children’s father – Geoff, 44 was missing, and a suicide note apparently written by Mr Hunt was found on the property. His abandoned ute was found next to a dam on the family’s property, a set of thick tyre tracks cutting across the wheat crop and leading directly to it.
On Wednesday afternoon police recovered a body and a gun from a dam on the Hunt’s property, and police immediately discontinued a search for Mr Hunt.
They are now preparing a report for the coroner, and are not looking at any other persons of interest in relation to the incident.
“We have five dead people. We believe they were all members of the same family,” Wagga Wagga police Superintendent Bob Noble said. “There’s nothing to lend us to believe that there are any other victims or persons of interest.”
Bizarrely, the reaction in some quarters has been to point the finger not at the apparent killer, but at his work on the land.
Now, any Australian farmer could tell you that things are pretty tough right now. Our country is currently experiencing one of it’s worst droughts in 100 years, and it is taking its toll on people who live in rural areas. Some are struggling, some are making ends meet – and some are doing what they’ve always done – just getting by.
The experiences of rural families has been triggering mental illness for many. We know this. It can be painful, even horrific because that’s life on the land; unpredictable and riddled with anxiety.
However. It’s an experience that cannot be blamed for one man’s decision to allegedly murder his entire family before taking his own life.
Lockhart Mayor Peter Yates told the media yesterday “It’s been devastating,” he said. “No one can understand it. It’s mind-boggling that these young lives could be cut so short. Everyone wants to know why,” he said.
It is understandable to wonder why, to question the cause, or search for some meaning and logic in the case of this incomprehensible tragedy.
Naturally, grief is causing people to want to blame someone or something. And it seems that many in our community and the media are blaming the current state of Australia’s farming industry.
Wagga Wagga Police Superintendent Bob Noble told a press conference yesterday that the Hunt’s were “well-integrated into their community through social events, through sports and were well loved”. When asked what may have caused these murders Superintendent Noble said: “No doubt life on the land is very difficult. In certain parts of the country at present it’s very hard on people”.