Freedomroo – Coroner found deaths of Jack and Jennifer Edwards was preventable after their 2018 murders

John Edwards shot dead his daughter Jennifer (pictured), 13, and son Jack (right), 15, in West Pennant Hills in Sydney's north-west on July 5, 2018

Three shocking failures that saw a psychopathic father-of-10 murder his children – as coroner fights back tears to say their deaths could have been avoided

  • John Edwards, 67, fatally shot his children Jennifer, 13, and Jack, 15, in July 2018
  • Olga, the children’s mother, killed herself five months after the murder-suicide 
  • Coroner said teenager’s deaths were preventable after errors by authorities 
  • Police failed to make inquiries after mother reported abuse by her husband
  • Gun registry staff also granted him permits and license to shoot and buy pistols
  • 24 recommendations including better information sharing between authorities

The domestic violence murders of two Sydney teenagers were preventable, says a coroner who found a litany of errors made by multiple authorities.

Jack Edwards, 15, and his sister Jennifer, aged 13, were shot dead on July 5, 2018, after their father John Edwards stalked his daughter on her way home from school.

NSW State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan on Wednesday found police failed to make reasonable inquiries after the children’s mother, Olga, reported instances of Edwards’ abuse and stalking in 2016 and 2017.

Pictured: Jack Edwards, who was killed by his own father

John Edwards shot dead his daughter Jennifer (left), 13, and son Jack (right), 15, in West Pennant Hills in Sydney’s north-west on July 5, 2018

Gun registry staff, in the job without any formal training, then failed to recognise Edwards’ long pattern of domestic violence when granting him various permits and licence to shoot and buy pistols and rifles.

The coroner could not be satisfied Edwards initially started gathering permits in order to murder his children.

But she said he’d formed that intent by April 2018, when he acquired his second pistol.

Her voice wavering at times, the coroner said it was unquestionable the deaths of the children and their mother’s December 2018 suicide had caused unbearable suffering for many.

‘However, to describe this as a tragedy is to import a sense of inevitability that nothing could have been done to change the outcome,’ she said.

NSW Coroner found the deaths of the two teenagers who were killed by their father John Edwards (pictured) was preventable

NSW Coroner found the deaths of the two teenagers who were killed by their father John Edwards (pictured) was preventable 

‘Instead, the evidence before this court plainly reveals the deaths of Jack and Jennifer were preventable.’

Among her 24 recommendations, Ms O’Sullivan has called for the process allowing people to shoot guns on-the-spot to be abolished, police officers’ training to include more on domestic violence and regular audits of police reports to ensure they comply with best practice.

Despite the NSW Police’s overhaul of the gun registry in response to the deaths, the coroner said more was needed to address the ‘serious, systemic failures’ present until July 2018.

She also called for better information sharing between the registry, police and Family Court to verify answers given by applicants, including whether they were subject to family law proceedings.

Independent children’s lawyer Debbie Morton, who was tasked to represent Jack and Jennifer’s best interests in the Family Court, was referred to a NSW lawyers’ body for possible disciplinary action.

The coroner found she hadn’t properly considered objective evidence, statements by Olga Edwards and the children’s concerns before addressing the Family Court on Edwards’ risk.

Gun clubs that interacted with Edwards in 2016 and 2017 adhered to their obligations, the coroner found.

But she recommended a new law forcing gun clubs to tell the registry when they refuse someone membership and give reasons.

Unlike other inquiries, the coroner cannot extend her inquiry and recommendations to address community-wide issues if they don’t relate to the deaths in question.

‘Notwithstanding, the deaths of Jack and Jennifer serve as a stark remainder of the broader systemic problems that face too many women and children every day,’ the coroner said. 

The tragedy of the Edwards family murders 

Jack Edwards, 15, and his sister Jennifer, aged 13, were shot dead in their Sydney home on July 5, 2018, after their father John Edwards stalked his daughter on her way home from school. The father, 67, took his life soon after.

LEAD-UP TO THE MURDERS

The children and their mother Olga left Edwards in March 2016 after years of abuse. Acrimonious Family Court proceedings ensued.

Edwards began legally acquiring permits to fire and buy guns from late 2016, while concurrently battling Olga in the Family Court.

INQUEST

Over three weeks in September 2020 and some extra hearings, NSW Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan heard from more than 30 witnesses.

Former partners spoke of how Edwards, from as early as 1968, had made their life hell through physical, emotional and financial abuse.

FINDINGS

Despite policies insisting they do, local police failed to investigate when Olga reported John Edwards’ abuse in 2016 and 2017.

Gun registry staff were unaware of their key obligations and completely failed to recognise the pattern of domestic abuse on John Edwards’ police record.

The lawyer tasked to represent the children in the Family Court failed to ensure the court was fully informed of Jack and Jennifer’s views.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Police bolster mandatory domestic violence training and start auditing DV reports annually to ensure officers are complying.

Gun registry staff get training to recognise risks of domestic violence.

Better information sharing between the gun registry, police and the Family Court to ensure all are aware of a person’s risks.

Jack and Jennifer’s Family Court lawyer be investigated by a disciplinary body.

There were 24 recommendations in total.

QUOTES FROM NSW CORONER

‘It is unquestionable that their deaths and the subsequent death of Olga have caused unbearable suffering for many. However, to describe this as a tragedy is to import a sense of inevitability that nothing could have been done to change the outcome.

‘Instead, the evidence before this court plainly reveals the deaths of Jack and Jennifer were preventable.’

 

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