WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS DISTRESSING CONTENT
A Sydney man who shot dead his son and daughter at their home before killing himself had a 40-year history of domestic violence, an inquest has heard.
John Edwards, 67, gunned down his children Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, in July 2018 as they attempted to hide in a bedroom of the West Pennant Hills home they shared with their mother.
Counsel assisting Kate Richardson SC said at the time of the shootings Edwards was the subject of complaints of violence, intimidation and stalking by no fewer than five of his ex-partners and three of his children.
She said the inquest would examine how, despite these complaints being filed on the police database, he was able to obtain a gun licence and legally purchase three rifles and two pistols before the shootings.
The killings followed a lengthy divorce and custody dispute with his former wife Olga Edwards.
Five months after the shootings, Ms Edwards took her own life.
On Monday, the NSW Coroner’s Court heard Edwards drove to the St Mary’s Pistol Club, where he was a member, on the day before the shooting.
Edwards collected two guns, a nine-millimetre Glock semi-automatic pistol and a magnum Smith and Wesson pistol, from his locker.
The following day, he drove to Pennant Hills railway station, where he lay in wait for his daughter Jennifer to return from school.
The inquest heard his former wife had kept the family’s new address secret as the children were afraid of him.
Edwards had taken the precaution of hiring a car so his children wouldn’t spot him and raise the alarm.
He watched as his daughter boarded the Hills bus and then followed the bus to a stop a short walk from her home.
Jack was already at home playing Fortnite on the computer in his bedroom.
“As Jennifer arrived home on foot, John Edwards pulled into the driveway,” Ms Richardson said.
“He followed or chased Jennifer into the house and then used the Glock pistol to shoot both Jack and Jennifer.”
The teenagers were later found in Jack’s bedroom “crumpled together under his desk, dead of multiple gunshot wounds”.
The inquest heard that Edwards’ history of domestic violence was available to officers at the Firearms Registry when they were deciding in 2017 whether to grant him a gun licence.
“One of the issues that arises is whether given that history … John Edwards should have been granted a firearms licence,” Ms Richardson told the court.
She said an algorithm used to extract information from the police database meant other serious allegations, including a recent police report identifying Jack and Jennifer as being at risk, were not picked up by the Firearms Registry.
The inquest heard details of Edwards’ complicated personal life.
Police investigating the killings discovered he had six prior families and had fathered a total of 10 children.
Officers told the court they’d tracked down all but one of his former partners.
All had relayed similar tales of violence, abuse and controlling behaviour.
Sergeant Tara Phillips told the inquest one of Edwards’ ex-wives was so terrified of him she changed her name and moved to Queensland.
The inquest continues.
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