In the wake of Olga Edwards’s death, women’s safety advocates have slammed a system they say does not go far enough to protect victims of domestic violence.
Ms Edwards, 37, took her own life last week, just five months after her two teenage children, Jack, 15 and Jennifer, 13, were gunned down by their father following a bitter custody battle.
The Sydney mother had begun making moves to get her life on track – she was attending a psychiatrist, doing yoga, and had even worked up the courage to put out some small Christmas decorations.
But on Wednesday, police conducted a welfare check on Mrs Edwards, whose life was torn apart by a man who should have been nowhere near her or their children, and found her dead, in the house her children were killed in.
Karen Willis, the executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, told The Age the court system did not go far enough to protect victims of domestic violence.
Mrs Edwards (left) was a solicitor, who was well liked in the community. Neighbours said she was last seen on Monday, and had seemed happy at the time. Mr Edwards (right) took his own life soon after murdering his children
Mrs Edwards’ estranged husband, John, gunned the two teenagers down inside the family home (pictured) in July this year. Mrs Edwards continued living in the house before taking her own life in the house
‘Olga Edwards took every step she possibly could (to ensure the family’s safety) … she clearly knew this guy was incredibly dangerous and had gone to incredible lengths,’ she said.
‘But she should have been in protective custody and he should have been in jail.’
Ms Willis said overworked Magistrates were given just three minutes per determination, and were not always able to get to the bottom of what is happening.
She believes victims of domestic violence would be better served by a protective custody program, and a reevaluation of the family court process, which took greater stock of how likely a person was to adhere to an order.
Jackie Watt, CEO of No to Violence, told The Age technology could be a big help in keep victims of domestic violence safe, especially in the case of a repeat offender.
‘One of the things they could do is, if the offender comes within a certain distance, is set off a whole set of alarms,’ she said.
Ms Watt says this technology could have alerted Mrs Edwards that her estranged husband was living nearby, and she and her children were in danger.
‘The bottom line is; she didn’t, for one second, realise he was in the neighboring suburb,’ she said.
Jack Edwards (left) and his little sister Jennifer (right) were at the centre of a bitter custody dispute, which had ended with a court ruling Mr Edwards was to have no contact with the children or their mother. He stalked the family and carried out a premeditated murder while he knew Mrs Edwards was not at home
Mrs Edwards collapsed in shock when she arrived home to find her children dead on July 5
The lack of accountability put on to Mr Edwards following a court ruling he could have no contact with his children was most prominent in his ability to gain access to a gun.
‘A big question is about how he was able to access firearms,’ said Ms Watt.
‘Why was there not a red flag, a burning flag.’
Jack and Jennifer Edwards were shot inside their home, by their father, on July 5; after they came home from school and before their mother returned home.
In the months following, a local church set up a roster for residents who wanted to help by cooking her meals, and one man took it upon himself to look after her lawns.
‘We used to have a prayer group for her,’ a neighbour told Daily Mail Australia. ‘Every Thursday night we’d sit down and pray for her.’
Olga Edwards, 36, had begun to prepare for her first Christmas (pictured) without her son, 15, and daughter, 13, when she took her own life this week
‘We told her about it. She wasn’t a Christian,’ he added, noting the horrors that had taken place in her home were enough to rock even the most devout person.
The neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had last spoken to Mrs Edwards on Monday, and ‘she was happy’.
‘If we saw her, we’d chat to her, ask her how she’s going, if she needed anything,’ he explained, noting while the woman’s death was tragic, it was not entirely unexpected.
‘We took special care of her, but you can only do what you can,’ he said.
‘We were praying for her on Monday night. That’s all you can do really.
‘Now she’ll be with her two children in heaven.’
In the past few weeks, Mrs Edwards had stopped attending Bikram yoga at a shopping complex nearby her house, and residents said her car rarely moved from the driveway.
Police said Mrs Edwards had been killed by her husband, describing her death as a ‘slow murder’.
The 37-year-old was a deeply devoted mother, and the horrific murders of her children had destroyed her, her neighbour told Daily Mail Australia.
‘They were a very loving family, she loved those children, that’s the thing. She really loved those children,’ he said.
‘They were her world. She was a lawyer, an intelligent, smart person. She could play piano, she was quite articulate.
‘You didn’t hear the piano so much after… the daughter mainly used to play.
In a devastating lasting tribute to her children, three My Family stickers were seen on the back of her car.
They pictured a woman and two children – one boy and one girl.
Mrs Edwards’s car sat in the driveway of the home, with her My Family stickers, portraying a mother, a daughter and a son, seen on the back window