Neighbors pieced together events that took place in the days leading up to the shocking moment of a Melbourne mother who is believed to have killed her three children before committing suicide.
The bodies of Katie Perinovic, her two daughters Claire, 7, and Anna, 5, and son Matthew, 3, were found inside their Tullamarine home, in the northern suburbs of the city, on Thursday afternoon.
Perinovic’s husband, Tomislav, 48, called emergency services and was questioned by police before he was released without charge.
Less than 24 hours before the shocking murder, 42-year-old Perinovic had dropped a bag of prunes at the home of his neighbors on Burgess St, Daniel and Vicky Schembri.
Mr Schembri, who has lived on the street with his wife for 48 years, said Perinovic knocked on the door at 5.30pm on Wednesday. He thanked her, and she said “Bye,” she told NCA Newswire.
Just two days earlier, the Schembris family had heard children play happily in their pop-up pool. “They screamed and screamed and had fun and all that,” he told The Australian.
The Perinovics are well known among their neighbors. The children wish Mr Schembri a happy new year. Kevin and Clare Harrison, who live opposite the family, visited on Christmas Day to give gifts to the children.
“We sat with them for a while and Tom was on the floor playing with little Matthew in the car we gave him,” she told The Australian. “He helped the girls unpack their pieces. We just laughed and joked about things.”
On Thursday afternoon, the children died, after an act that sent shockwaves into a usually deserted community.
“Investigators are not sure the 48-year-old man was involved in the incident and police are not looking for anyone further on the matter,” police said on Thursday afternoon.
“Killing Squad investigators have formed the initial view that the 42-year-old woman was responsible for all four deaths and once their investigation is complete, a report will be provided for consideration by the coroner.”
Locals are now trying to find out if there is any clue as to what they saw and heard about the family hours earlier.
One of the local parents who arrived back from the village trip at around 4pm on Wednesday told the Herald Sun that they saw Perinovic visiting another house on the street and talking to the owner of the house named Freddie in an act that now looks extraordinary.
A young mother living around the corner told Herald Sun that she had returned from morning coffee with friends on Thursday morning when she heard a very loud scream coming from Burgess St.
He is now convinced that the agitated cry at around 11.45am was Perinovic. About half an hour later, the mother said, she heard sirens.
Marie Groves’ family friend said she last saw Perinovic when the mother of three visited her home in November for a party.
Groves said Perinovic appeared “very quiet and reserved”.
“On November 29, I invited her to meet and help celebrate my daughter’s birthday with my children,” Groves told NCA NewsWire on Thursday morning.
“She was only there for a short time … her two older daughters were very much like mine, they chatted and laughed – typical of seven year olds, they are pretty kids.
“On that day he seemed a little aloof – that’s not unusual – he was very quiet … come to think of it maybe that’s a clue?”
Groves said he didn’t really know Perinovic’s husband, Tomislav, because he “worked around the clock.”
Groves, who has developed a close bond with Perinovic as their children grew up together, said the last time he saw his neighbor was before Christmas, when he also seemed “a little quieter than usual”.
However, he added, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Schembris said Perinovic moved into the next house about 25 years ago before he met his future wife.
“Once they got married, she got pregnant,” said Schembri, adding that Perinovic looked “happy”.
Schembris said they used to see children who were “very active” all the time playing and riding their bikes on the road. The oldest, Claire, is getting dance lessons and the youngest is starting school.
Claire and Anna both attended St Christopher’s Elementary School on the outskirts of West Airport.
“Now, in heaven,” said Schembri. “They are very good children.”
The first indication he had that something was wrong on Thursday was seeing emergency services rushing onto the streets.
“We saw Tom sitting in a chair with his hands behind his back,” she said.
“She was quiet – numb.
“And then they took him to the police car.”
Schembri said his heart broke thinking about the three children wishing him a happy new year, eating sweets, two weeks ago. “How could this happen?” she says.
Perinovic’s former colleague, who is a physiotherapist, told the Herald Sun that they were devastated to learn of the death.
It is known that he left the Glenroy Physiotherapy clinic unexpectedly about three months ago.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Robert Hill said police will work to support the families of those involved and ensure they get the help they need.
“I know there will be many people in society who are struggling to understand and accept this tragedy,” he said.
“It is also a very difficult time for the police and paramedics, who responded to and attended the scene yesterday.
“This is a very heart wrenching experience for all parties.”
Lee, a team manager at the West Meadows paramedic unit, also laid flowers at the scene and took a moment to reflect outside the home.
Speaking to NCA NewsWire, he said about five of his paramedics responded to Thursday’s horror and were “shaken”.
“The loss of three children is affecting everyone including our staff,” he said.
“This isn’t normal … yes we have a troublesome element in our roles, but incidents like this are rare.”
On Fridays, mourners lay flowers and cards on the property.
One child, Anabelle, left a handwritten note on the gate moments before detectives left the scene with a brown evidence bag.
“To Claire, Anna, Matt, and Katie. You are always very kind, loving, caring and Claire is always my best friend (best friend forever). Love from Anabelle,” read the note.
Investigations are continuing.
Where to get help:
• Life line: 0800 543354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 SUPPORT) (available 24/7)
• Youth service: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543754 (available 24/7)
• What is wrong: 0800 942 8787 (13.00 to 23.00)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Suicide Prevention CASPER
If it’s an emergency and you think you or someone else is at risk, call 111.