It was too early to “write off” Olga Edwards’ report that her violent husband had assaulted their two teenage children as a possible attempt to influence family court proceedings, as the allegations were not even investigated, the head of NSW Police’s domestic violence unit has said.
The inquest into the deaths of Jack and Jennifer Edwards at the hands of their monstrous father John Edwards, who gunned them down inside their home in Sydney’s northwest, heard police should have proactively sought to interview the children after the report in December 2016.
Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, died cowering under a desk at the West Pennant Hills home after their father stalked his daughter on her way back from school on July 5, 2018.
Hours later he turned a gun on himself at his Normanhurst property, leaving a suicide note blaming his wife. Grief-stricken, Olga would take her own life months later.
Chief Inspector Sean McDermott told the inquest on Monday that under standard procedures the error-strewn report of Olga’s allegations, filed as “no offence detected” in a police database, had been misclassified and incorrectly dated.
When asked how it should have been categorised he answered: “Assault, DV.”
Not only that, he said Jack and Jennifer should have been listed as the victims and not their mother Olga, who had told an officer at Hornsby police station her estranged husband had been assaulting their kids since May 2015.
The COPS event created by Senior Constable Brooke Cooper also said all “reasonable” investigations had been undertaken despite police not interviewing the children.
On the day, Olga was told to bring her kids into the station for questioning, and when she did not return the event was closed.
That was a “reasonable first inquiry to make”, Insp McDermott said, but when she did not comply “police should have proactively gone out to speak to the children”.
The inquest heard John Edwards walked into the same police station on March 4, 2016 and told an officer his wife might make “false accusations” against him to influence a battle to win custody of their home.
Constable Cooper’s report on December 29, 2016 noted Olga’s allegations might have been a “premeditated attempt to influence future family court and divorce proceedings”.
Insp McDermott said “sometimes – albeit very rarely” police did field phony reports designed to damage a partner’s reputation, but that paragraph should not have been there “full stop” as investigations had not been completed.
“It was open to the officer to be … suspicious or alert to the options,” he said.
“But it was too early to say, to write her off if you like or to use that term without having spoken to the children.”
He said if the report had been filed correctly, it would have triggered a notification to Family and Community Services.
That may have prevented John Edwards from obtaining the gun used to shoot his children.
Earlier in the inquest, Constable Cooper admitted she had never read the official police procedures around reporting and recording instances domestic violence.
The inquest continues.