An evil father who hunted down and shot his two children dead as they cowered under a desk left a twisted suicide note blaming his estranged wife for the murders.
John Edwards, 67, killed his daughter Jennifer Edwards, 13, and his son Jack, 15, in West Pennant Hills in Sydney’s north-west on July 5, 2018.
The children were found ‘crumpled together’ under Jack’s bedroom desk with multiple gunshot wounds.
Edwards killed himself at his rented home near Normanhurst on the night of the murders, with investigators later discovering a USB-stick near his body containing a note for the mother of the children, Olga.
Jack (pictured left) and Jennifer’s (pictured right) body were found under his bedroom desk with multiple gunshot wounds
Before turning the gun on himself, the twisted killer also hung a ‘World’s Greatest Daddy’ shirt on a chest of drawers at the end of his bed.
‘Olga you may scream out what has John done when the reality is what has Olga done,’ the three-page suicide letter began, the Daily Telegraph reports.
‘None of this had to happen had you been a halfway normal person.’
Six months after the murder-suicide that shocked Australia, Olga took her own life.
An inquest into the deaths began last week and the NSW Coroners Court heard Edwards had ‘a propensity for domestic violence’, including physical and psychological assaults against the women of his life and his many children.
Edwards (pictured) killed himself at his rented home near Normanhurst on the night of the murders.
One ex-partner said he was never physically violent but ‘controlling’ while another said he was ‘unbalanced and a narcissist’, the lead investigator told the inquest.
Some of his odd controlling behaviours included making them wear lipstick and mini skirts, giving them the silent treatment for weeks, or restricting finances.
Including the two he murdered, Edwards had 10 children to seven partners.
He threatened to take two of his previous partners’ lives and gave another rat poison, while his other kids described being beaten with a belt and cattle whip.
Edwards deceitfully told one woman he was in the armed forces and ‘Aboriginal chieftain’, while another described trying to run escape with the kids while he was in the shower.
One of his kids said custody visits were like prison.
Edwards was awarded licences to shoot rifles and pistols in June 2017 after NSW Firearms Registry staff used a police database report that had failed to pick up several matters related to domestic violence.
Over the next year, he legally acquired five weapons including the Glock 17A 9mm semi-automatic pistol he used to shoot dead Jennifer and Jack.
Edwards hired a car and stalked his daughter on her way home from school in order to learn their new address before he followed or chased his daughter inside.
Neighbour Bruce Wilson heard five shots over about a minute and approached the home, knowing ‘someone is shooting the children’.
He eye-balled Edwards as the 68-year-old ‘half skipped’ down the home’s front stairs.
‘I said ”Is everything OK, what have you done?”’ Mr Wilson told the inquest.
‘He didn’t say anything, he just walked towards me.
Six months after the murder suicide, the children’s mother Olga (pictured) took her own life
‘He was in no hurry, he didn’t rush at all. Everything was methodical and well-thought-out.’
A bloodstained piece of paper with Jennifer’s train timetable and movements was found in Edwards’ pocket during his post-mortem examination.
Data from the USB indicated he wrote the note less than an hour before leaving to stalk Jennifer.
It is not known how Edwards initially tracked down his daughter’s movements before following her home, as he burned his mobile phone and tablet before his death.
Based on his history and the note, the lead police investigator suspects the financial planner could have hired private investigators to find the family.
‘(The note) appeared to be a timetable of Jennifer’s movements to and from school,’ Detective Sergeant Tara Phillips told the NSW Coroners Court last week.
Edwards had previously used a private investigator to track the children’s mother, the officer said.
Having tracked down and spoken to numerous ex-partners of Edwards and many of his children, the detective painted a picture of a controlling, narcissistic, self-centred and calculating man.
‘He had a history of exerting control over the women in his life and his children. He had a propensity for domestic violence,’ she said.
Edwards, 67, turned the gun on himself at a rented home near Normanhurst, northern Sydney (pictured)
When Edwards’ 15-year marriage to Olga broke down in 2016, he ‘became consumed with maintaining a relationship with Jack and Jennifer’ and blamed Olga for the children’s estrangement, the detective said.
After the children’s murder, Olga detailed to Det Sgt Phillips how Edwards had over the years physically abused the children over minor things, such as touching his phone or CD collection.
But exactly how he found the family in West Pennant Hills may never be known.
‘He’d set fire to all his electronics, so we were unable to extract (anything),’ Det Sgt Phillips said.
The inquest, which is expected to run until September 25, will closely examine how Edwards was able to legally acquire the handguns he used to kill his children and then himself.
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Lawyer who spoke to slain children before they died faces inquest
When independent children’s lawyer Debbie Morton met Jack and Jennifer Edwards in December 2016, she didn’t hear them allege their father John Edwards had hit them.
‘I can recall that neither one of them said they were afraid of him and I can recall Jack was pretty keen (to see his father) and Jennifer was a bit more ambivalent,’ she told the NSW Coroners Court on Thursday.
That recollection jarred with other evidence about how the children felt about the father who murdered them in July 2018, the children’s inquest was told.
Counsel assisting Kate Richardson SC said the lawyer’s comments appeared surprising given the children told ‘every therapist, family consultant … at least four or five health professionals’ their father was violent to them.
But Ms Morton, the Sydney lawyer tasked to advocate for Jack and Jennifer’s best interests during family court proceedings, stood by her recollection despite being unable to find her handwritten record of the meeting.
The court was told Ms Morton advocated for the children to see Edwards for a few hours every Saturday.
‘I wouldn’t have … if they’d indicated to me that it wasn’t in their best interests,’ she said.
Reading from a transcript of the December 2016 court hearing, Ms Richardson said the children’s lawyer made out the police had attributed allegations of violence as ‘heavy-handed parenting’.
Ms Morton told the judge that she took family violence seriously but had no concerns ‘on what I’ve seen’.
When Ms Richardson stated there was nothing on the police file up to December 2016 that mentioned ‘heavy-handed parenting’, Ms Morton was adamant she must have read it on the police file.
‘They aren’t words I would use,’ she said, denying they could have come via Edwards or his lawyer.
She accepted she didn’t specifically tell the family law judge about her contrasting conversation with the children or that the family therapist had reservations about continuing therapy while allegations of family violence were in play.
The inquest heard interim orders made on December 22, 2016, called for the children to visit their father every Saturday for two to three hours.
That was breached repeatedly in the next few months, except when a therapist took them to a meeting for 15 minutes.
Asked if that wasn’t the teenagers ‘voting with their feet’, Ms Morton said their mother Olga wasn’t taking them to the changeover point.
State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan is examining the lead-up to Edwards’ violent slaughter of his children, including family law and gun registration issues.
Poorly recorded police reports and incomplete pictures of Edwards’ propensity for domestic violence meant he was still able to apply for, and acquire, five guns in 2017 and 2018.
One of the matters on Edwards’ police record as of December 2016 detailed an estranged adult daughter’s 2011 allegations that he’d tracked her down and – stepping out from behind a tree at her child’s preschool – tried to enter her car.
Scared to return home, the woman said she drove to her partner’s work and stayed there until 5pm when he could accompany her home.
The allegations, which also included the woman saying Edwards abused her as a child, were attached to a restraining order application dropped when the woman moved to Europe.
Ms Morton initially characterised the allegations as a man ‘wanting to see his grandchild’.
‘The complaint wasn’t that he caused any physical harm, just that he was an annoyance,’ she said.
But after the entire narrative was read out in court, she accepted that was not a reasonable conclusion.