The discovery of several dead babies in a Winnipeg storage locker is "tragic beyond belief," say police.

Three or four bodies were found Monday afternoon in various states of decomposition, said police spokesman Const. Eric Hofley.

Autopsies are planned on the remains to determine exactly how many there are and the cause of death, he said. The autopsies will also determine their age.

Hofley said the bodies were newborns or someone "of a very young age." They were "certainly not children," he said, calling the situation "very disturbing" and "tragic beyond belief."

"All that information will hopefully be determined as the days progress," he said. "We will have further information tomorrow [Wednesday], I do know that for a fact."

U-Haul scene

Police were on scene at a U-Haul storage facility in Winnipeg late Monday night. The bodies of several dead babies were found. (Lindsay Tsuji/CBC)

Hofley told reporters on Tuesday that in his 14 years as an officer he has never experienced anything like this.

'How does that even happen?'

Police would not reveal the name of the storage facility, but CBC News has learned it was U-Haul on McPhillips Street and Elgin Avenue in the city's West Alexander neighbourhood.

The bodies were found by employees who phoned police at about 1 p.m.

Sources told CBC News it's a "gruesome scene" like something from a horror movie. It isn't clear how long the bodies had been in the locker.

Barrington Francis, who rents a storage unit in the same facility, said he learned of the grisly discovery on the news Tuesday morning.

"I didn't expect to get up in the morning and hear that four infants are dead in a storage unit. That's bizarre and I don't know how that even happens," he said.

"How does that even happen, when you sneak four infants into a storage unit and nobody sees it, nobody knows?"

Storing human remains illegal, police say

Hofley said members of the Winnipeg Police Service's child abuse unit are investigating, and depending on where that leads, members of the homicide unit could join in.

Even if it's found there was no foul play involved, there will likely still be charges.

"Obviously, you're not allowed to store or conceal human remains. That in itself would be a charge," Hofley said.

"Again, until such time as the autopsies have determined what is the cause of this, we won't know what the full extent of the charges may or may not be."

Kirsten Kramar, a criminologist and the chair of the sociology department at the University of Winnipeg, says it's "extremely rare" to find the bodies of several infants.

"These are the rarest of crimes. They garner a whole lot of attention, but they are extremely rare," she told CBC News.

"There's only one other case in recent history where two bodies of babies were found. That was in B.C., and the woman was just recently convicted and sentenced to five years in prison."

Kramar said the challenge for investigators will be to determine whether the infants were born alive or not.

"Obviously, we don't know who may have been present at the time of the birth," she said.

"It's extremely difficult for forensic scientists to tell us if the babies have been born alive or not, so that's one of the challenges for sure."

U-Haul 'shocked and saddened'

U-Haul declined interview requests Tuesday but the company's marketing president, Razmin Mansoub, released a statement saying it was "shocked and saddened" by the discovery.

The company would continue to co-operate with authorities, Mansoub added.

Full statement from U-Haul:

U-Haul team members made a disturbing discovery when taking inventory of a delinquent storage locker on Monday.

They immediately contacted law enforcement who believed the locker contained human remains. U-Haul is deeply shocked and saddened by this discovery.

Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, U-Haul cannot comment with any further details. We will continue to fully co-operate with authorities.