Quiet boy who grew up to become double child killer
EVEN child-killer John Edwards' family hates him.
"He's an awful man, horrible. Always has been," his only sister Dianne says.
After comforting Olga, the mother of her evil older brother's two murdered children, Edwards' sister said she could not think of anything good to say about the man who ran away from their Broken Hill home at the age of 16.
Speaking for the first time since the cowardly murder suicide earlier this month, Dianne, 64, said the family was devastated by the sickening violence inflicted on the children.
There was a quiet funeral service for Edwards last week in Sydney which it is understood was attended by at least one of his four ex-wives, with whom he bragged to a neighbour he had another nine children.
A heartbreaking private service has been held at Camellia Chapel, Macquarie Park, for the two children he shot dead, Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13.
"You are my angels, my darlings, my stars. My love will find you wherever you are," their mother wrote in the order of service.
Edwards, 67, grew up a miner's son in Broken Hill, where school friends recall him as a strange, quiet boy obsessed with war games and playing with his vast army of tin soldiers.
At Broken Hill High School he was seen as a "nerd" and called himself "DJ", everyone thinking his real name was David John.
One classmate said that despite visiting Edwards' "immaculately kept" home many time in Wolfram St near the centre of town, he never saw his friend's dad. William John, known as Jack, lived in the backyard granny flat.
"There was something not right with the father's interaction with the whole family. He lived in the granny flat and didn't interact," the friend, who asked not to be named, said.
Jack Edwards, who grew up in the Sydney suburb of Lewisham, moved to Broken Hill after returning from the World War II and had been a prisoner of war in the notorious Changi Prison in Singapore, a source said.
He was a president of the town's Legion club and well-liked but his only son grew up with few friends.
The younger Edwards' former classmate said when he visited him at home, his sister always seemed happy to see him.
"She was so excited to have someone around because it didn't seem as though anyone else went around there," he said.
While other kids in the mining town were used to doing it tough and were lucky to have one or two packets of tin soldiers, the 12-year-old Edwards had 10 to 15 packets, which he meticulously handpainted.
"It was highly unusual. He had the whole battle of Waterloo going on," the schoolfriend said. "No one had a war set like he had."
When Edwards grew up in the Outback city in the 1950s and '60s, women had to stop working once they married and his mum Sylvia Edwards kept their three-bedroom home exceptionally clean.
"In those days some people were real poor, people who were scruffy and dirty and unkempt," the friend said.
"But his house was always beautifully kept and he was always immaculately dressed, always had his hair cut and presented well at school."
Most of his contemporaries have left Broken Hill but those who remain were shaken to their core when they saw his photograph in the news and realised he had killed his own children before turning the gun on himself.
"He was a boy who was never sporty and no one can recall him ever getting involved in the rough and tumble and we're talking about a time at the height of masculinity in a tough town," another source said.
"The fathers had come back from the war and fights were rife in the town but no one can recall DJ ever getting in a fight."
Jack Edwards died in 1995 and Sylvia Edwards died in 2011, but Edwards' sister Dianne said she had "hardly seen him" since he first left town.
Edwards joined the army but left after only a couple of years "under a cloud".
Neighbours at his Normanhurst home said he had told them his five wives were all born overseas.
He met Olga during a holiday to Russia and they married when she was just 19 and he was in his late 50s.
"He lived here since 2000 and never made small talk with anyone except once to my husband over the garden fence to say Jennifer was the youngest of his 11 children," neighbour Carmel Aitken said.
"We all thought how an odd a couple they were, not so much because of the big age gap but because he never spoke and she was lovely but never socialised.
"He was incredibly grumpy and hardly let the children play on the trampoline in the garden and the pool was overgrown with moss as he forbade them from using it."
Neighbours said Edwards was "obsessed" with Russia and visited the country annually for many years.
Another neighbour who asked not to be named said Edwards became enraged about 18 months ago after he and Olga, now 36, split up and the children went to live with her at West Pennant Hills.
It was around this time he joined a gun club while he bought a border collie he called Jade to try to persuade his daughter Jennifer to visit him as his relationship with his kids chilled further.
"Jennifer was a beautiful soul who loved animals and lived in fear of her father - he bought a dog to entice her back to the house, she wanted to be in veterinary science," a neighbour said.
"Jack was a gentle, kind, caring soul who was always looking out for his sister. Olga loved them both desperately."
As a financial adviser, Edwards' clients included barristers and solicitors from the top end of town.
While he boasted a ritzy address on the 34th floor of the former AMP building in Bridge St, his "office" was just a hot desk shared with dozens of other businesses. He worked mainly from home, posting his own letters at the local post office.
"He never spoke any pleasantries, he was very withdrawn and odd, he never looked you in the eyes," a post office employee said.
This week his Nissan Patrol was parked outside his home with his rural fire service uniform still hanging in the back.
"There was nothing gentle about him at all, he was always angry, but after Olga left with the children something in him snapped," the neighbour said.
While he listed himself as a Lions and Westleigh Rural Fire Service volunteer, the RFS removed him as a member earlier this year.
Olga Edward's boss at the Woolwich law firm where she works, David Brown, described her husband: "The man is absolutely the most shocking person I have ever come across."