A woman was charged on Friday with killing her three girls in their South Island house in Timaru, days after relocating to New Zealand from South Africa.
The children’s father reportedly returned home on Thursday night to find the bodies of his daughters. The children were identified as 2-year-old twins and a 6-year-old.
The mother is expected to appear in the Timaru District Court on Saturday. Police did not immediately identify her.
“Police would like to reassure the community that this was a tragic isolated incident and we are not seeking anyone else,” detective inspector Scott Anderson said in a statement to local media.
The family moved to New Zealand in late August from South Africa. They took up residence in their new house last week after completing their mandatory quarantine at a facility upon arrival.
Emergency services discovered the crime scene after they were tipped off by neighbours. A fourth person present at the scene was taken to the Timaru hospital in a stable condition.
Police were alerted by the victims' neighbours when they heard a man wailing and crying, The Stuff News reported. When the neighbour asked the man if he was alright, he allegedly did not respond other than saying: "is this really happening?”
Timaru mayor Nigel Bowen said: "it seems that the community has had layers of tragedy with the five young lads that passed away so it's really tough"
"I think the community will be thinking, why is it happening to a place like ours? There's a lot of pressure on society at the moment, you have to question the support around mental health, are we doing things right in this country? I question that we're probably not," he was quoted by New Zealand Herald as saying.
The dead bodies of the children were removed from the house late on Friday afternoon.
Aoraki area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said the deaths would be “incredibly distressing” for residents of Timaru as five teenagers from the town were killed in a car crash last month.
Recently, a 23-year-old man was arrested for the murder of a teenage girl who was found dead in South Auckland's Manurewa on 11 September.
So far in 2021, at least 43 people have died in suspicious or homicidal circumstances in New Zealand.