Mum’s tragic tribute to murdered kids
After her children were murdered, Olga Edwards carried them around with her in her handbag, in two tiny urns.
One of them, pink, had a small portion of the ashes of her 13-year-old daughter Jennifer, an inquest heard on Thursday.
The other, blue, contained some of 15-year-old Jack's ashes.
The teenagers' lives were cut short on July 5, 2018, when their father John Edwards brutally gunned them down at their home in West Pennant Hills before killing himself.
It was the culmination of a long history of domestic violence inflicted by Edwards on a total of seven ex-partners and 10 children.
It set off a world of pain for Olga, who took her own life five months later.
An inquest into the tragic murder-suicide has been under way for three weeks before state coroner Teresa O'Sullivan, who is investigating how NSW Police, the firearms registry and the Family Court could have done things differently.
On Thursday, Edwards' adult daughter recounted Olga asking her to hold the urns containing the brother and sister she never got to know.
"When I did I wept, not only for my siblings but as a mother, feeling Olga's immense grief in my hands," she said.
She said Jack would have recently turned 18, on September 12, and Jennifer would be 16 now.
"They will never get to grow up," she said. "I didn't know them, but in many ways I did. They were other versions of us. They have lived with John. I know what that meant. We were bonded by that alone."
There was barely a dry eye in the courtroom as she spoke.
"Their mother loved them so much, just like our mothers. She was the last one. The one to bear it all. A lifetime of his anger pent up and unleashed."
It was an anger the adult daughter knew intimately.
She said one day in her childhood, "burned into my memory forever", Edwards hurled a wooden rolling pin at her mother's head after becoming enraged that he did not have a freshly ironed shirt.
Her mother coaxed Edwards into the shower with the promise of a fresh shirt to follow before putting her kids over the fence to the neighbour, jumping over herself and calling the police.
The daughter lost touch with her dad for many years and then took out an AVO against Edwards in 2011 after numerous instances of stalking.
After she realised one day she was being followed in her car, Edwards had someone drop a letter at her house saying he just wanted to bump into her at Hornsby Westfield and had gotten a friend to track her.
She and her husband were selling their house at the time, and she warned her agent that Edwards might try and come to an open house.
But after she described him and emailed through a photo, the agent confirmed he had already been through her house. He had come with another man and used a false name, pretending to be a father with his son from Melbourne.
"I can't even begin to describe how physically ill that made me," she said.
Days later Edwards stepped out from behind a large gum tree as she was dropping her daughter at preschool.
She panicked, getting straight back into the car, opening the window a crack to tell Edwards she was going to the police and then locking the doors and speeding away, her children crying and terrified.
"I knew that if he wanted to hurt you he would hurt you through children," she said. "I actually feared for my daughter's safety in this moment more than my own."
When she arrived home, Edwards had dropped a note in the letterbox urging her not to take out an AVO.
One line read: "I think you need to give me a little respect for the fact that I don't hassle you."
The daughter told the inquest that during the AVO proceedings the police prosecutor leaned over and said to her, "He is your father, can't you just sort this out amongst yourselves?"
"To which I replied, 'You do not know my father'," she said.
John killed Jack and Jennifer with a Glock pistol, one of five guns he owned legally.
Two days after the murders, the adult daughter received a text from Olga.
It read: "I just don't understand how they gave him gun licence. Especially after your AVO. I will never understand that."
One ex-partner told the inquest: "He made our lives hell."
"You had to live it to really understand that someone could behave the way he did," she said. "He also hoodwinked so many people right to the end."
She said after she found out Edwards was dead, "I drove off in my car and I didn't have to check in my rear-view mirror to see if I was being followed."
Another ex-partner recounted training her children to make collect calls from a phone box so they knew how to escape if he abducted them.
She said that in the wake of the horrific crime the big family - comprised of ex-partners, sisters, brothers, aunts, nieces and nephews - had come together.
"We are all survivors of homicide," she said.
Olga's mother, from Russia, invited the family to the house to take some mementos of Jack and Jenny after Olga took her own life, the ex-partner said.
"I can still see her smoothing the imprint of Olga's body from Jack's quilt," she said.
The inquest will resume in October.*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.
Originally published as Mum's tragic tribute to murdered kids