Twisted monster’s kids died cowering in fear

IN the ultimate act of fatherly betrayal, sadistic John Edwards spent at least a year planning the murder of the son and daughter he had been banned from contacting.

He hired a car to stalk them so Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, would not recognise him when he pulled up outside their rented West Pennant Hills house on Thursday afternoon.

At 5.20pm, they opened the door to be confronted by the terrifying sight of the father they feared carrying two handguns.

And as they ran, he coldly hunted them down.

"They were trying to hide in a bedroom and were huddled together when he opened fire," a senior police officer said.

"What a selfish coward."

Edwards timed his evil to wreak maximum havoc, shooting his children after school just before the end of term when he knew they would be alone - and not long before their mother, his ex-wife Olga Edwards, 36, was due to arrive home from work.

He then returned to his home a suburb away and killed himself in what police believe was a long-premeditated end to a bitter custody battle.

A group of friends pay their respects and lay flowers at the scene.
A group of friends pay their respects and lay flowers at the scene.

Edwards, who was due to turn 68 next week, got his firearms licence late last year as soon as the law permitted - almost 10 years to the day after an apprehended violence order imposed on him had expired.

 

John Edwards.
John Edwards.

Earlier this year he lawfully bought firearms including the guns he used to kill his children.

About the same time, he and his ex-wife agreed to compromise to end a two-year custody dispute, The Saturday Telegraph can reveal.

The couple agreed their children would live with their mother in West Pennant Hills and have no contact with their father "whatsoever".

In May, Edwards wound up his financial planning business, where he had worked as an adviser with AMP for 23 years, and put his affairs in order.

Residents bring flowers to the scene on Friday morning.
Residents bring flowers to the scene on Friday morning.

"He knew it was all going to s…," one source said yesterday.

Jack Edwards had confided in a friend that his dad had been abusive, and neither he, his sister nor his mother wanted him to know where they lived.

"(He) told me where he lived in case I ever wanted to go his house, but he told me not to tell anyone 'cause he didn't want his dad to know where they lived," the friend said yesterday.

But Edwards discovered their address - and neighbours saw and heard him several times before Thursday's carnage as he banged loudly on the front door and demanded to get in to see his children.

 

John Edwards as a volunteer firefighter.
John Edwards as a volunteer firefighter.

"There was no actual violence, it was just a bit of bravado and into the house and out again," one neighbour said.

Edwards lived alone with his border collie in the nearby suburb of Normanhurst in a house he bought four years ago, where neighbours described him as a "hermit" and a "recluse".

"He was known in the street as the grumpy guy with the border collie," neighbour Neil said.

Another said Edwards was a cold father. "He really just wasn't a very warm dad. You would hear the way he spoke to the kids wasn't great."

As her life returned to normal, Olga Edwards appeared to relax. She worked at a Woolwich law firm where she is a senior associate.

Emergency services gather at Hull Rd after the tragedy unfolded. Picture: David Swift
Emergency services gather at Hull Rd after the tragedy unfolded. Picture: David Swift

Six months ago she drastically changed her image, cutting her knee-length hair into a short peroxide blonde style.

"There was always something really sad about her but she never gave anything personal away," said Michael Glenellis, owner of Ironwood Coffee Company two doors down from the Brown and Partners law firm where she works.

Edwards, who had been married several times before meeting Olga, was known to police "but there had been no recent interactions with him", acting Assistant Commissioner Brett McFadden said.

Police have CCTV footage of Edwards collecting the weapons from their storage at a gun club in the 24 hours before Thursday's heinous murders.

After discovering the bodies at West Pennant Hills, police said a manhunt was under way for their suspect. In reality the elite Tactical Operations Unit had already surrounded Edwards' Normanhurst address.

Officers knew he was inside and negotiators were called as they "contained" the situation until first light when police went in and found his body.

A NSW Police forensic officer walks into the Normanhurst property.
A NSW Police forensic officer walks into the Normanhurst property.

 

The house in Normanhurst where Edwards killed himself. Picture: John Grainger
The house in Normanhurst where Edwards killed himself. Picture: John Grainger

 

Police believe he shot himself dead as soon as he returned home. Inside they found the two weapons he used on his children. Officers also found his dog alive.

"This is something that has been premeditated and planned," Mr McFadden said.

It is not known whether the AVO against Edwards was taken out to protect his wife and children but there had been several interim and provisional AVOs since then.

Despite not being able to apply for a firearms licence until 10 years after the date the AVO order ended, Edwards had tried to join at least three pistol clubs. They all rejected him after he said he had previously been denied a gun licence.

But he was an active member of the Westleigh Rural Fire Service, serving as brigade treasurer in 2013.

The Normanhurst property is run down. Picture: John Grainger
The Normanhurst property is run down. Picture: John Grainger

"He was a good bloke, he was always wanting to have a chat with you, have a good banter," a fellow RFS volunteer said.

"He was a good firefighter. But I think that his activities sort of dropped off."

Police are still investigating whether Edwards had any military background.

At West Pennant Hills and Normanhurst, neighbours could not believe Edwards would kill his own children. "What a bastard and what a coward," one said.

Another neighbour, Edward Corbett, said he remembered seeing the family in the past at the local Normanhurst Christmas street parties. The children were very popular, with Jack described as "caring" and easy to get along with.

A card left at the home on Friday.
A card left at the home on Friday.

 

He played for Pennant Hills Demons Junior AFL Club and went to Pennant Hills High School.

Neighbours described Jack and Jennifer as "beautiful" children.

"The children were just beautiful and that is what is so sad, they had their lives ahead of them," one said.

She said she often saw Jennifer walking her dog. "She was a pretty little dear thing, very sweet, that little face, it was a kind face," she said. "That little girl loved her dog, she used to walk her dog every day."

Another resident said that Olga Edwards would tell stories about Russia, adding: "She loved her children."

 

The letter from principal Ross Warren.
The letter from principal Ross Warren.

Yesterday Pennant Hills principal Ross Warren emailed parents: "I am writing to you with some very sad news about a member of our school community. One of our Year 10 students died suddenly and tragically yesterday evening. Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy are with the student's family and friends."

The Penno Student Leadership Facebook group also told students they should seek help to deal with the tragedy: "If anyone feels they are having difficulties coping during such a tough time, please do not hesitate to seek help from any of our teachers, or councillors."

Neighbour Sharon (last name withheld) talks to media near the scene.
Neighbour Sharon (last name withheld) talks to media near the scene.

Last night a group of girls from Jack's school laid flowers and candles outside the home on Hull Road. "Please know you are in our thoughts... words are inadequate," a card read.

Jennifer attended the selective Gosford High School. "She was a very intelligent, very bright girl. She was a very academic girl," a family friend said.

Ms Edwards has told colleagues she does not know how she will face life without her children.

"She is really struggling, desperately, she has just lost her two children and doesn't know how she will cope," David Brown, a senior lawyer at the firm where she works, said.

Additional reporting - CHRISTOPHER HARRIS & DANIELLE GUSMAROLI

Lifeline 13 11 14

Olga Edwards.
Olga Edwards.
Floral tributes continued to mount on Friday evening.
Floral tributes continued to mount on Friday evening.
Police cordoned off an area 150m from the home on Thursday night. Picture: Damian Hoffman
Police cordoned off an area 150m from the home on Thursday night. Picture: Damian Hoffman

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