The police mistakes that led to John Edwards buying a gun and killing his children
It was “problematic” and “premature” of a police officer to dismiss Olga Edwards’ report of assaults by husband John Edwards against their children as a “premeditated attempt to influence some family court and divorce proceedings”, an inquest heard.
Hornsby police also failed to record the victim’s name and incident type correctly, and didn’t investigate the report any further, when they should have.
On July 5, 2018, Edwards gunned down his two children, Jack and Jennifer, in the West Pennant Hills rental where they lived with their mother Olga, after fleeing Edwards’ violent control. He later killed himself.
Five months after her children were shot dead by their father, Olga Edwards took her own life.Credit:LinkedIn
Olga was so scared of Edwards she kept their new address a secret, but he stalked his daughter and followed her home from school.
Chief Inspector Sean McDermott, the head of the NSW police domestic and family violence team, told an inquest into the deaths of Jack and Jennifer that police erred in recording Olga’s assault report as “Domestic violence – no offence”.
It should have been recorded as “Domestic Violence – Assault”, he said.
John Edwards killed his two teenage children before turning the gun on himself.
The incident did not come up in a police record search by the NSW Firearms Registry when Edwards successfully applied for a gun license the following year.
“Police should proactively have gone out to speak to the children,” Chief Inspector McDermott told the inquest.
When Olga walked into Hornsby police station on December 29th 2016, to report three assaults by Edwards against their children, she was locked in a Family Court battle with Edwards over custody.
The inquest heard previously that Edwards’ had himself gone to Hornsby police to tell them that his wife might come in and make false reports against him.
Jennifer and Jack Edwards were shot dead by their father at West Pennant Hills.
There was sometimes a police perception that the use of an AVO “is more tactical than practical”, Chief Inspector McDermott told the inquest.
But, he said, “eighty per cent of Family Court matters involved allegations of domestic violence”, so the existence of a family court battle was not a reason not to investigate an assault report.
“The existence of family law proceedings might be a factor that suggests an increase of risk,” he said.
“I have found, over the years, women in domestic violence relationships…will endure a lot of abuse in regard to themselves but when it happens to children, that’s the first time they will come and report to us.”
John Edwards followed his daughter back to her West Pennant Hills home before he killed her and her brother. Credit:Janie Barrett
Counsel assisting the inquest Christopher Mitchell said Hornsby police had recorded the victim name incorrectly – they recorded it as Olga, when it should have been the two children’s names.
They also mis-classified the offence type and recorded incorrect dates for the assault allegations.
Hornsby police closed the investigation into the incident without making any inquiries, and noted that Olga might have been attempting to influence the family court proceedings.
Chief Inspector McDermott said that conclusion was “problematic” because police had made no investigations of what Olga alleged.
“First step is to speak to the children, then make further inquiries,” said Chief Inspector McDermott.
“It was premature because the investigation had not been completed…it was too early to write her off, if you like…without having spoken to the children.”
The errors in the original police report should have been picked up by the police verifier checking it at a later date, he told the inquest, but they were not.
The inquest continues.
Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732 Lifeline 13 11 14.
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