Five-year-old allegations of John Edwards terrifying and stalking his estranged adult daughter have been characterised as a grandfather being a mere “annoyance” by an independent children’s lawyer.
The NSW Coroners Court is examining the lead-up to 67-year-old Edwards storming into the home of his youngest two children Jack and Jennifer in July 2018 and shooting them dead.
Sydney lawyer Debbie Morton faced the inquest on Thursday over her task to represent and promote the best interests of Jack and Jennifer during family court proceedings from late 2016 to early 2018.
In a December 2016 hearing, she recommended a judge order the children to spend a couple of hours with their father – telling the inquest the children never told her they feared their father.
Before the hearing, Ms Morton had accessed Edwards’ police record which detailed how one of his estranged adult daughters had in 2011 applied for a restraining order.
The woman had alleged Edwards tracked her down, went to one of her home’s open inspections under a false name and then – stepping out from behind a tree at her child’s preschool – tried to enter her car.
Scared to return home, the woman said she drove to her partner’s work and stayed there until 5pm when he could accompany her home.
The application, which also alleged Edwards’ abuse of the woman when she was a child, was dropped when she moved to Germany.
“He turned up at her doorstep wanting to see his grandchild. The complaint wasn’t that he caused any physical harm, just that he was an annoyance,” Ms Morton said.
After the entire AVO application narrative was read to Ms Morton, she accepted that the conclusion that Edwards was “a slightly annoying grandfather” was not possible on any proper reading of the material.
The inquest heard that before Ms Morton advocated for Edwards to see his children, his ex-wife Olga had made allegations of his domestic violence against Jack and Jennifer. A family therapist also voiced reservations about the benefit of further all-in family therapy sessions due to the allegations.
But Ms Morton said the children didn’t mention any family violence when she met them days out from the December 22 hearing.
“I can remember asking them how they felt about going to see Dad, I can recall that neither one of them said they were afraid of him and I can recall Jack was pretty keen (to see his father) and Jennifer was a bit more ambivalent,” she told the inquest.
“That appears to be surprising,” counsel assisting Kate Richardson SC responded.
“Every other person they spoke to in the process – every therapist, family consultant, there’s at least four or five health professionals – that they told that their father was violent to them.”
Ms Morton was unable to find her handwritten file note of the meeting but stood by her recollection.
“I wouldn’t have recommended they spend a couple of hours with their father if they’d indicated to me that it wasn’t in their best interests,” she said.
Olga Edwards’ boss David Brown, who also represented her in the Family Court, on Tuesday dubbed Ms Morton a bully who’d given the “very clear impression that she was going to drive the children into John’s hands”.
Australian Associated Press
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