TRUE OPINION: Teenagers, Jack and Jennifer Edwards, were killed mid-last year at their Western Sydney home in what police say was a ‘planned attack’ by their estranged father, John Edwards. There was also a third victim. Their heartbroken mother, Olga Edwards, committed suicide just a month ago, unable to face the trauma of living without her children. Questions are now being asked as to why the 68-year-old financial services worker was able to have possession of not one but two powerful handguns given his history and background, writes Tim Kent.
This article contains discussion of family violence, trauma, murder and suicide. If you need assistance or help with mental health issues, contact:
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
Blue Knot Foundation – 02 8920 3611
In July of this year, John Edwards arrived at his estranged wife’s home in West Pennant Hills armed with a loaded and powerful handgun and shot dead his two children Jennifer, 13, and 15-year-old Jack. In what would have been a moment of sheer terror Jack made a desperate attempt to shield his sister from the gunfire, and in doing so he sacrificed his own life. Ultimately Jennifer was shot dead too. The 68-year-old father after murdering his two children at their West Pennant Hills home returned to his residence and ended his life by turning the gun on himself.
Edwards had allegedly purchased handguns some months earlier when embroiled in a bitter custody battle with the children’s mother, 38-year-old Olga Edwards. These dreadful murders came at a time when the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed data indicating that approximately one in four offenders in NSW prisons are there due to domestic violence offences. Statistics indicated that 3030 of the 12,631 people behind bars are either facing a domestic or family violence related charges, or have been the recipients of apprehended violence orders.
In what was described as a shocking but rare occurrence, Mr Edwards had inexplicably been granted a firearms permit despite having been rejected from several pistol clubs. Edwards had obtained what is known as a “commissioners permit” from the NSW firearms registry. It is understood that these permits can only be granted by a delegate of the NSW Police commissioner. Apparently, this allowed him access to use the facilities at St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre.
Prior to the granting of the “Commissioners Permit”, it is believed that Mr Edwards had been rejected from several pistol clubs. According to NSW Amateur Pistol Association president Brian Cheers, who has occupied a position on the executive team since 1988, he had never heard of someone having “ commissioners permit” before, adding that it was “extremely rare, it appears to have overridden anything else” in an interview with AAP.
Mr Cheers went on to claim that Edwards in one of his applications to a shooting club, stated that he had a gun licence cancelled or refused. This admission alone should have prevented Edwards from being allowed to shoot at any club, Cheers said. Cheers in an extraordinary defence of the shooting club believed the clubs had done the right thing.
“I have never come across this before, it’s very strange,” the baffled gun enthusiast said.
Controversial Shooters And Fishers Party MP, Robert Borsak, waded into the debate adding that the registry, maintained by the NSW Police had access to all police intelligence data and a thorough and detailed review of Edwards should have been undertaken. He went on to claim that possibly staff and resource cutting may have led to something being overlooked when Edwards had made his application. “Existing firearms regulation and background checks should have prevented last weeks tragedy in Sydney Borsak wrote on Facebook, “why weren’t these followed?” It is believed that even expired apprehended violence orders are grounds for rejection.
“Countless applications are refused for much less by the Police every day” he stated.
Not only did Edwards obtain a firearms licence after twice been denied on the grounds of his character, but he went on to obtain not one but two firearms.
The NSW Police are declining to discuss the matter any further as it is now subject to coronial findings.
NSW Police Minister, Troy Grant, and Police Commissioner Mick Fuller have been in discussions regarding proposed changes to gun laws including the exchange of information between Govt agencies and the mental health assessments of applicants.
As of this date, no additional comments have been made either by the NSW Government nor the NSW Police Commissioner.