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Thu, 8 Apr, 2021

Inquest finds deaths of Sydney children murdered by their father were "preventable"

Inquest finds deaths of Sydney children murdered by their father were "preventable"

A coronial inquest into the murders of teenagers Jack and Jennifer Edwards by their own father has found their deaths were entirely preventable.

The children were brutally killed by their 67-year-old father John in July 2018, after he stalked his daughter to their West Pennant Hills home they shared with their mother Olga Edwards.

Jack Edwards, 15, and his sister Jennifer, aged 13, were huddled under a bedroom desk when they were killed.

John had purchased a semi-automatic pistol a few short days before he "half-skipped" down the house's front stairs and drove to his West Pennant Hills home to take his own life, State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan was told in September 2020.

Five months later, the children's grieving mother committed suicide.

NSW Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan on Wednesday made 24 recommendations in a report of more than 270 pages.

“The evidence before this court plainly reveals that the deaths of Jack and Jennifer were preventable,” she said in a summary of her findings.

The inquest looked into how Edwards was so easily able to get his hands on gun permits and licences despite a history of domestic violence.

Edwards had a 40-year history of violence and abuse towards his six former partners and 10 estranged children, but police had not charged him with any offence since 1998 and approved his gun licence in 2017.

He then purchased five guns over the next year, including two pistols he removed from his storage locker at a Sydney gun club the day before the murders.

“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.

The coroner ultimately found systemic failures were present by New South Wales Police, the Family Court system and the Firearms Registry.

In response to the findings, a NSW Police spokesperson said the force would “review the findings and consider all recommendations that are directed to police”.

“Following the deaths of the Edwards children, Commissioner (Mick) Fuller publicly committed to undertaking a review of the NSW Firearms Registry,” the spokesperson 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.”