Two Sydney teenagers who were shot dead by their father in 2018 were so scared of their dad that the son slept with a cricket bat, an inquest has heard.

John Edwards, 68, gunned down his children Jack and Jennifer in July 2018 in a horrific crime that shocked the nation.

He was not meant to know where the children and their mother, Olga, were living, and stalked Jennifer home from Pennant Hills train station, in Sydney’s northwest, before shooting the two teenagers as they cowered underneath Jack’s desk at their home in West Pennant Hills.

Olga killed herself six months later.

The tragedy is now being investigated by state coroner Teresa O’Sullivan.

The court heard on Tuesday that Jack and Jennifer were terrified of Edwards, who regularly launched violent assaults on Jack in particular.

Edwards and Olga were locked in acrimonious Family Court proceedings from March 2016 until early 2018, in which she was represented by her boss, solicitor David Brown.

Documents from the matter revealed in court on Tuesday that Jack slept with a cricket bat and Jennifer was terrified her father would hit her.

Olga was petrified her ex-husband’s assaults on Jack would escalate. She wrote in an affidavit filed in the Family Court proceedings she had “a tremendous fear I would come home and find my child dead because John could never control his temper”.

An email chain from 2017 between Mr Brown and Debbie Morton, the independent children’s lawyer appointed to the case, were read aloud by counsel assisting the coroner Christopher Mitchell.

Mr Brown wrote to Ms Morton saying the children were unwilling to attend psychologist appointments with their father due to the history of violence.

Ms Morton replied saying if Olga didn’t ensure Jack attended the appointment with his father, she would be left with no alternative but to recommend Jack and perhaps Jennifer too be removed from Olga’s care.

The inquest also heard about a December 2016 hearing in the matter which was attended by Ms Morton.

According to a transcript read aloud by Mr Mitchell, Mr Brown raised allegations of violence from Edwards against the children.

Ms Morton then characterised the incidents as “heavy-handed parenting” based on the police file, which had no charges or apprehended violence orders.

Ms Morton went on to say she wasn’t suggesting family violence should be taken lightly but based on the file she thought Edwards should have visitation.

Mr Brown said he met Jack and Jennifer several times and had many conversations with Olga about the assaults Edwards had perpetrated on their children.

“He was something of a bully,” Mr Brown said. Asked to expand, he said, “I mean, how long have I got?”

He told the court about one incident in Paris in 2015, in which Edwards “essentially assaulted” Jack by chasing him down a street and pushing him up against a wall as if to punch him, before a passer-by intervened.

On the same family holiday, the inquest heard, Edwards slapped Jennifer in the face over an argument between her and Jack about sharing a blanket.

In another incident the same year, Olga told him Edwards had cornered Jack in the garage and hit him “full force” around the head and ears, and kicked him on the floor.

“She got to a point where she was sleeping in a different room with the children for fear of a physical confrontation,” he said.

“Olga’s not the sort of person who’d be openly complaining about things, but things were getting pretty bad, put it that way.”

Mr Brown, who hired Olga in 2008, described her as a bright young lawyer who absorbed information fast.

“She was impressive,” he told the inquest.

He said 15-year-old Jack was “a bit of a tearaway” for whom he tried to be a male role model. Jennifer was very smart, timid and a “lovely girl”.

On its opening day, the inquest heard Edwards was granted a gun licence in mid-2017 despite the firearms registry having access to an automated report that detailed at least three AVOs sought by ex-partners and another by one of his adult children.

But even more incidents were missing from the automated report, including two police reports against Edwards made by Olga in December 2016 and February 2017.

This was due to improper police recording, and the algorithm that generated the report, the inquest heard.

The inquest continues.


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