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Tragic twist in horror murder-suicide

 

It's been almost three years since the horrific murder-suicide of the Edwards family rocked Sydney but the years of failures to protect the family continue to resonate.

In July 2018, John Edwards stalked his 13-year-old daughter Jennifer on her way home from school to then shoot her and his 15-year-old son Jack to death.

He fled the West Pennant Hills home, in northwest Sydney, before taking his own life at his apartment nearby.

Jack and Jennifer's heartbroken mother Olga grieved in the home where her children were murdered for five months - the home she had been renting in secret after fleeing her ex-husband's violent control - before taking her own life on December 12 of that year.

It's an established statistic that one Australian woman each week is killed by a violent, controlling male she knows.

Every day in May, as part of Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Month, news.com.au will tell the stories behind those shocking statistics.

Jack and Jennifer Edwards.
Jack and Jennifer Edwards.


The extensive failures that led to the death of the Edwards' family were made public in a NSW coronial inquest last year.

Police records, and evidence given at the inquest by Edwards' former partners and family, detailed the decades of violence and control he wielded against all the women and children in his life.

The inquest heard Edwards spent more than two decades physically and psychologically abusing his partners and children.

Edwards had an extensive history of abuse against his six former partners and eight children before he began inflicting the same violence on Olga and their two children.

Perhaps the most tragic twist of all was that Edwards was twice refused a gun licence before being granted a permit in 2017, less than a year before he gunned down his children.

The inquest heard Edwards was refused a gun licence in 2010, due to a prior AVO filed against him, and was again refused a permit by Ku-ring-gai Gun Club in 2016 after his behaviour concerned workers.

Olga and John Edwards.
Olga and John Edwards.


In 2017, as his and Olga's battle in the Family Court was ramping up, Edwards was able to attend a gun club in Sydney's west, fooling the workers there and fooling the NSW Firearms Registry to eventually legally obtain two guns.

The first gun he used to murder his two children, the second he used to take his own life.

The inquest heard NSW's firearms registry had shown a "complete failure to recognise a history of domestic violence going back 24 years".

"Had they adequately analysed the information readily available, they would've had no choice but to refuse his firearm applications," State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan said.

Some of the blame was also shouldered by police.

Despite his domestic violence history, police's inability to properly file two allegations Olga made against her abusive and estranged husband meant he was able to legally obtain the guns.

Olga made her first report in December 2016, when she described three instances to police of John assaulting Jennifer and Jack.

Police "erroneously recorded" it as "domestic violence - no offence detected".

"Had the incident been categorised as assault or domestic violence, it would've appeared in the (firearm registry's) system in relation to John's suitability of holding gun," Ms O'Sullivan said.

The NSW coroner held back tears last month as she handed down her findings into the entirely "preventable" deaths of siblings Jack and Jennifer.

Police at the Edwards’ home. Picture David Swift
Police at the Edwards’ home. Picture David Swift


Ms O'Sullivan detailed the heartbreaking moment Jack crouched under his desk with his younger sister, attempting to use his body to shield hers, as John fired an entire round of bullets into his two children.

The inquest heard John loaded his Glock pistol a second time, shooting them again.

Ms O'Sullivan made 24 formal recommendations in her findings, including better training for NSW Police officers handling domestic violence reports, better information sharing between the federal Family Court and NSW's firearms registry, and better risk assessment for registry staff giving people firearms' licences.

"To describe this as a tragedy is to import a sense of inevitability," Ms O'Sullivan said.

"That nothing could have been done to change the outcome.

"Instead, the evidence before this court plainly reveals that the deaths of Jack and Jennifer Edwards were preventable."

The only entity to escape fault at the inquest were the Sydney pistol clubs, where Edwards legally obtained his firearms and practised shooting.

Ms O'Sullivan did make a recommendation that gun clubs are to inform the NSW Firearm Registry if they refuse membership.

Following the damning findings, NSW Police promised "continued improvements" and "further reforms" to its Firearms Registry and in the way it approaches domestic violence.

Police said over the past two years it "has implemented significant changes to systems and procedures in relation to the reporting and supervision of domestic and family violence incidents".

"The NSW Police Force continues to identify ways to improve responses to firearms and domestic violence offences," it said last month.

"The NSW Police Force continues to improve its capability to keep people safe."

Originally published as Tragic twist in horror murder-suicide



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