SMH: ‘We have to take responsibility’ – NSW Police commissioner says the force failed Edwards children


NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the force must take responsibility for the shooting deaths of Jack and Jennifer Edwards at the hands of their violent father, John.

“The systems, processes and people let Jack, Jennifer and Olga Edwards down, for that I am sorry. We have to take responsibility for their deaths,” Mr Fuller said in a statement days after a coroner’s findings into the institutional failures that led to Sydney teenagers being killed.

Edwards shot Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, with a legally owned and acquired Glock pistol at their West Pennant Hills home in north-west Sydney in July 2018. Then he drove home to Hornsby and turned the gun on himself. The children’s mother, Olga, took her own life five months later.

“John Edwards should have never got access to firearms. As the NSW Police Commissioner, I need to make sure that can’t happen again,” Mr Fuller said, adding during an interview with 60 Minutes that photos of the children and their mother “are etched in my mind forever.”

State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan found there were numerous failures in the system to protect Jack and Jennifer, who were let down by “multiple agencies, entities, and professionals in the police and within the family law system”.

John Edwards had a long history of family violence against Olga, Jack and Jennifer, as well as his six previous partners and eight children.

Just a year before Edwards was granted multiple gun licences in 2017, Olga had gone to the police and laid out a series of violent allegations against her husband.

The officer noted in the internal system at the time she believed it may have been an attempt by Olga to influence family court and divorce proceedings, and the allegations were not recorded as alleged assaults.

In February 2017, Olga again attended the police station to report Edwards stalking her after he attended her regular yoga class. They had at the time been separated for almost a year. Police called Edwards and asked him why he was at the class – he claimed Olga was actually stalking him.

Staff at the Firearms Registry failed to review police data which would have revealed a pattern of domestic violence when they agreed to grant him a firearms licence.

There were 18 events on Edwards’ record on a central police database accessible to registry staff who helped decide the outcome. However, the employee did not review the incidents because she did not think it was part of her role, according to Ms O’Sullivan’s final report.

Ms O’Sullivan made several recommendations, including general duties police officers should be given mandatory training in responding to domestic violence allegations.

Mr Fuller said the 15 recommendations made primarily for the police “have been rectified”, saying the force had already made significant changes to its processes.

“We see some 150,000 victims every year come forward to report family and domestic violence. Half of all homicides in NSW are domestic and family violence related. We have more police and more training than we have ever had in this space,” he said.

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