An inquest has heard police made errors in recording allegations of assaults against Sydney teenagers Jack and Jennifer Edwards by their father, 18 months before he shot them dead.
- John Edwards killed his children at his West Pennant Hills home in 2018
- Police at Hornsby station did not investigate previous incidents reported by the children’s mother
- The inquest heard that John Edwards had a long police history of domestic violence complaints
The alleged assaults were wrongly assessed and classified in the police database as “Domestic Violence — No Offence Detected”, the court was told, which meant the report was never followed up.
In addition, a note was added that the complaints were possibly “a premeditated attempt to influence some future Family Court and divorce proceedings”.
In July 2018, the children were tracked to the house they’d fled to with their mother and shot multiple times with a high-powered gun by their father, John Edwards.
Edwards had a long history of domestic violence against a string of previous partners and several of his 10 children.
After the carefully planned killings, Edwards drove to his nearby home at Normanhurst and turned his gun on himself.
Olga Edwards, the children’s grief-stricken mother, took her own life five months later.
Senior Constable Brooke Cooper was at the front counter at Hornsby police station in November 2016, when Ms Edwards went to report three incidents alleged assault.
Ms Edwards told police that Edwards had kicked and punched Jack, who was then 13, for touching his iPod.
On another occasion, he hit Jack for playing near a stack of CDs.
She also told police he slapped Jennifer on the face after yelling at her and telling her to go to sleep.
Senior Constable Cooper said she had no recollection of meeting Ms Edwards but agreed that the date of the offences was wrongly recorded and that Ms Edwards was erroneously listed as the victim rather than the children.
The inquest heard that after entering these details into the police computer, Senior Constable Cooper took no further action.
Counsel assisting Christopher Mitchell asked: “Would you agree that the conduct Olga is describing amounts to an assault?”
“Yes,” she replied.
The officer admitted she didn’t speak to the children or Edwards following Ms Edwards’s complaint.
“Would it have been reasonable to ask someone to speak to them?” Mr Mitchell asked.
“[In] hindsight, probably yes,” she said.
The inquest heard that she had also not read Edwards’s police file, which included a long history of domestic violence complaints, AVOs and allegations of stalking and intimidation, involving five former partners and one adult daughter.
Scrutiny of complaint handling
Senior Constable Cooper gave evidence that when she spoke to Ms Edwards in 2016, she was aware of the document known as the NSW Police Force’s Domestic Violence Standard Operating Procedures but she hadn’t read it.
Counsel Assisting Christopher Mitchell asked: “Is it a document you were familiar with in 2016?”
Senior Constable Cooper replied: “No, to be honest. I hadn’t really read through the whole thing.”
“Have you read any part of it since?” Mr Mitchell asked.
Senior Constable Cooper replied: “No”.
Under questioning, Senior Constable Cooper was asked if she was aware that a person may be at heightened risk after reporting domestic violence and after leaving a violent relationship.
“These were matters of which you were aware in 2016?” Counsel assisting asked.
“I guess, I would have [been],” she responded.
Earlier, the inquest heard evidence from another police officer from Hornsby station, Senior Constable Jenny Barnes.
She was on duty in March 2016 when John Edwards arrived to inform police that his former partner may make false allegations against him to advance her claim on the family home in Normanhurst.
“The way he was talking to me was very persistent. He was, I wouldn’t say aggressive, but very demanding,” she said.
“He wanted it officially recorded,”
The inquest will examine whether this had any impact on how Olga Edwards’s subsequent complaint was handled.