‘Demonic’: Harrowing moment killer dad shot kids

 

A neighbour of Jack and Jennifer Edwards faced down their killer father as he "half-skipped", seemingly without a care in the world, from the scene of the heinous murder but the sense of something "demonic" kept the neighbour from entering the room where the children lay dead.

The coronial inquest into the murder of the siblings heard multiple gaps in databases shared by police and the firearms registry allowed their father, John Edwards, to get access to pistols and rifles despite an extensive history of abuse to multiple partners and children.

On the evening of July 5, 2018, he stalked his 13-year-old daughter home and shot her, and her 15-year-old brother, dead in the home they and their mother Olga had worked hard to keep secret from him in West Pennant Hills.

Next door neighbour Bruce Wilson was watching the sunset on his rear veranda when he heard five shots ring out.

John Edwards.
John Edwards.

 

Forensic police at the scene in 2018. Picture: David Swift.
Forensic police at the scene in 2018. Picture: David Swift.

He told the inquest, on Monday, he feared right away someone had shot the children in the home next to his and walked into their front driveway where Edwards had parked his white rented Holden Commodore.

"John walked out of the door, across the veranda and then walked down the stairs," Mr Wilson said.

"He didn't look like he was worried about anything in any way….He half skipped down the stairs, walked towards me and I thought I gotta really concentrate on his features, and his height, because I thought this guy's shot the children".

"What have you done?" he asked the killer.

But there was no response. Edwards just walked past him, got in the car, and drove off.

Mr Wilson said he walked to the front door and saw a school bag on the ground, a sign of a tussle and all the doors open. But something stopped him.

"I went to the front door and it felt so demonic, it felt so bad, there was such an eerie feeling standing there," he said.

"I felt like I couldn't go in initially… I took a couple paces in and yelled out 'is everyone okay? are you okay in there?' I got no response."

"I thought something say to me 'no that's it - don't go any further'. I thought don't go any further because the children are now dead."

Jack and Jennifer Edwards.
Jack and Jennifer Edwards.

 

Edwards killed his children in the middle of an acrimonious marriage breakdown with his wife, Olga Edwards in July 2018. The grief pushed Olga to suicide six months later.

The opening of the inquest, before NSW Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan heard Olga and her children had tried to keep Edwards from figuring out where they were living in West Pennant Hills out of fear.

But, on a July afternoon in 2018, he arrived at the train station he knew his 13-year-old daughter would soon board a bus on her way home from school and waited.

He had hired a car so Jennifer wouldn't spot him, the inquest heard, and he followed her bus to the point it dropped her off.

CCTV recorded her walking into the front of the home, where her 15-year-old brother was inside playing video games, before Edwards pulled into the driveway.

"He followed - or chased - Jennifer into the house and used the Glock semi automatic pistol... to shoot both Jack and Jennifer," counsel assisting the coroner Kate Richardson SC said on Monday.

Locals leave flowers outside the house in which Jennifer and Jack Edwards were shot dead by their father. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone
Locals leave flowers outside the house in which Jennifer and Jack Edwards were shot dead by their father. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone

"They were later found by police in Jack's bedrooms crumpled together under his desk, dead from multiple gunshot wounds."

Edwards later shot himself dead at his Normanhurst home using a second, legally acquired pistol - a .357 Magnum.

The shocking murders were carried out with guns purchased by the father of 10 despite the firearms registry having access to his long criminal history of violence against his former partners and children, Ms Richardson said.

Police at the scene of the shooting on Hull Road at West Pennant Hills. Picture: David Swift.
Police at the scene of the shooting on Hull Road at West Pennant Hills. Picture: David Swift.

The 68-year-old had been charged with assault and malicious damage first in 1969, had restraining orders granted against him by one former partner in 1993, another in 1998 along with assault charges, restraining orders by a third partner in 2000 and another order by one of his own children in 2011.

Those allegations appeared on a computer generated report for firearm registry staff when he applied for guns in 2017.

But so much more information did not.

The registry staff did not have a note indicating Edwards had lied during a previous rejected application in 2010 when asked if he'd been subjected to AVOs in the 10 proceeding years.

The report also did not mention Edwards had threatened a previous partner with abducting their child. That had been recorded as domestic violence - no offence.

The report did not mention that, in 2016, police were called to an argument between Edwards and Olga which was also recorded as a domestic violence incident without an offence.

Mrs Edwards later went to Hornsby Police Station and divulged three assaults against her and the children by Edwards.

 

Olga Edwards, whose children were killed by their father in 2018.
Olga Edwards, whose children were killed by their father in 2018.

 

Jack and Jennifer were classified as "at risk" but it was also labelled as no offence.

The inquest heard police also noted Olga's report may have been a "premeditated" attempt to influence some future court appearance.

Ms Robertson said the inquest will examine if that is because Edwards had earlier insisted police make a note that his wife may make false reports so she could claim the family home.

On another visit to the same Hornsby Police Olga said her husband, now separated from her, had stalked her at a yoga class.

At that time she had been trying to keep her address and movements secret out of fear.

That incident, the inquest heard, did not even turn up in a search of "John Edwards" in the police database shared with the registry.

If the reporting systems were accurate and properly used, the registry staff would have known a total of five ex-partners had made allegations of violence or stalking against Edwards and his children feared him.

Ms Robertson said the head of the gun registry has since admitted the report was not adequate.

A lawyer representing NSW Police read a statement to family of Jack and Jennifer expressing their "heartfelt condolences" assuring them changes had been made to unite the databases and record "the character" of people like Edwards.

Another question is whether registry actually accessed the COPS database, or just relied on the summary.

The inquest will run for two weeks at Lidcombe.

Originally published as 'Demonic': Harrowing moment killer dad shot kids



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