A terrifying chapter in Australia’s history has ended with Leonard Warwick being found guilty of a series of brazen Sydney murders and bombings related to his Family Court battles.
The former firefighter’s targets included judges and a church congregation during a campaign of extreme violence between 1980 and 1985.
On Thursday, the 73-year-old was found guilty of the shooting murder of a judge and two bomb-related murders, including of a judge’s wife, and numerous other offences related to six events that occurred in Sydney over five years.
Warwick was convicted of:
- Shooting murder of Justice David Opas at Woollahra in June 1980;
- Bombing of Justice Richard Gee’s Belrose home in March 1984 with intent to murder him;
- Bombing of the Family Court building in Parramatta in April 1984;
- Murder of Pearl Watson at Greenwich and intent to murder Justice Raymond Watson, (when their home was bombed) in July 1984;
- Bombed a car at Northmead in February 1985 with intent to murder, (Ms Blanchard’s ex-solicitor);
- Murder of Graham Wykes in July 1985 at Casula (Jehovah’s Witnesses hall), and explosion causing grievous bodily harm to Jo Wykes, Miranda Wykes, Alaine Wykes, Sue Schultz, Peter Schultz, Jodie Edwards, Jesse Mazzotta, Susan Rushan, Paul Hahn, Rita Ridikas, Ioan Toplicescu, Lillian Hinds and David Winder.
Prosecutor Ken McKay contended seven events were “inextricably linked” to drawn-out Family Court proceedings involving Warwick and his ex-wife Andrea Blanchard, which ran from 1979 to 1986.
She testified the marriage started normally before Warwick turned violent and abusive.
Ms Blanchard left him in March 1979 after he assaulted her when she planned to go to a Tupperware party.
“He started punching me and then pushed me down to the floor and started kicking me on the body and repeatedly punching me in the arm.”
He once told her he could shoot her father “at any time” and also said Justice David Opas “won’t be there much longer” – weeks before he was shot dead at his home in 1980.
He was the first judge to deal with the Warwick case and made adverse rulings against him.
The judge, who was shot when he answered the doorbell just as his family sat down to dinner, had predicted blood would be shed if more court security wasn’t provided.
Justice Richard Gee took over the case, also making numerous orders adverse to Warwick.
His home was bombed in 1984, as was the Family Court registry building at Parramatta where Warwick’s cases were heard.
The home of Justice Ray Watson, the third judge to make adverse orders, was then bombed, killing his wife Pearl.
Those four events were “book-ended” by events of violence that were related to Ms Blanchard – the shooting murder of her brother Stephen and a car bomb at the previous home of her solicitor, according to the Crown.
But Justice Garling acquitted him of murdering Mr Blanchard, whose body was found with bricks attached around his waist in a national park creek after he went missing in 1980.
In 1985, a man who lived in a home formerly owned by Ms Blanchard’s solicitor, found a bomb under his car bonnet when he opened it to do some repairs.
He’d sat in the car and put the key in the ignition before changing his mind about moving the Holden Torana into the garage to do some work.
The final event was a bomb that ripped apart a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall, killing Graham Wykes and injuring 13 other members of the congregation, which had offered support to Ms Blanchard.
Joy Wykes testified her husband was sitting at the end of the row and they were holding hands.
Because it was quite a cold day, she had a little rug and placed it over their hands.
Her husband realised why she did it and whispered “I love you” and “that’s when the bomb went off”.
Warwick’s solicitor Alan Conolly had submitted there was not “a scintilla of acceptable evidence” that his client had committed extreme violence at any point in his life.
But Justice Garling determined otherwise and will conduct a sentence hearing on August 20.