John Edwards shot his 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter at their home and then killed himself.
Trigger Warning: This article contains details of violence and murder that readers may find disturbing.
An unimaginable tragedy struck a Sydney family in July 2018 when siblings Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, were shot and killed by their own father John Edwards. The children were in hiding with their mum, Olga from the abusive man. John Edwards followed his daughter as she entered the new family house and began to shoot his own children while they tried to hide from him under a desk. According to news.com.au, an inquest heard that Jennifer had dropped her school bag at the front door and had run inside their home to find her brother. They tried to hide from him under a desk as he kept firing shots. State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan told the inquest how Jack tried to shield his sister as their father fired multiple bullets into their bodies. Heartbreakingly, the children did not make it out alive.
Fearless boy, 15, tried in vain to shield sister from evil dad who shot them both dead https://t.co/6rx4rRBSa4— TELEGRAF.CO.ID (@Telegraf_ID) April 8, 2021
An hour later, John Edwards returned to his home in Normanhurst and shot himself dead with a second gun. The children's mother lived in the family home for five months until she took her own life on December 12 of that year. State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan criticized the NSW Police, the family court, and the state’s firearm registry for the children's unnecessary deaths. She couldn't imagine how their mother must have felt seeing her young children in such a horrifying situation. “It is difficult to imagine the pain that Olga felt when she returned home that night. To find police at her home and learn that her two children, who she loved dearly, had been killed.”
"The evidence before this court plainly reveals that the deaths of Jack and Jennifer were preventable," O'Sullivan said. The inquest looked into how the 67-year-old murderer was granted gun permits and licenses despite a decades-long history of domestic violence and entries on his police database record. "The deaths of Jack and Jennifer serve as a stark reminder of the broader systemic problems that face too many women and children every day," O'Sullivan said during a summary of the findings. 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 analyzed the information readily available, they would’ve had no choice but to refuse his firearm applications,” O’Sullivan said.
John Edwards inquest: series of critical errors allowed man to murder his children, NSW coroner finds https://t.co/OQKMvxH69j— Lex de Grauw (@opa1420) April 7, 2021
O’Sullivan made 24 formal recommendations in her findings. She touched upon a range of issues starting with better training for NSW Police officers handling domestic violence reports. She also highlighted how important it was to share information between the federal Family Court and NSW’s firearms registry. If these issues were handled properly, innocent lives would not have been lost. She elaborated, “Most distressing is that they were lost at such a young age, their potential unfulfilled. To describe this as a tragedy is to import a sense of inevitability. That nothing could have been done to change the outcome."
NSW Police responded with a lengthy statement after the findings, promising “continued improvements” and “further reforms”. “Following the deaths of the Edwards children, Commissioner Fuller publicly committed to undertaking a review of the NSW Firearms Registry,” police said. “Since 2018, the NSW Firearms Registry has undergone an extensive restructure which has resulted in enhanced compliance and better identification of breaches of the legislation. Continued improvements and further reforms are scheduled throughout 2021. Significant changes to the Firearms Registry processes and systems have led to greater scrutiny and assessment of licence application and renewals, which are now oversighted by senior adjudicators.” NSW 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,” they added. “The NSW Police Force continues to improve its capability to keep people safe.”
Representational Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by thianchai sitthikongsak