21 Apr 2015

Answers sought over why father killed children

5:39 am on 21 April 2015

The coroner's inquest for two Dunedin children shot by their father is expected to examine why the protection order system failed to protect them.

Bradley and Ellen Livingstone

Bradley and Ellen Livingstone Photo: NZ POLICE

Edward Livingstone, 51, was found dead with his nine-year-old son Bradley and six-year-old daughter Ellen at their home in Kiwi Street, St Leonards in January last year.

The inquest by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall begins today at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr stadium and is expected to run for four days.

Livingstone was arrested twice for breaching family protection orders in the months before the shooting at his former home for contacting his then-wife Katharine Webb by email and telephone.

Edward Livingstone

Edward Livingstone Photo: Supplied

But he was given a police diversion and discharge without conviction.

The coroner is expected to call police and Ministry of Social Development witnesses to explain why this happened, and whether the system could have protected the children, or should have done more.

Unanswered questions

Livingstone was estranged from his former wife and had been living away from her and the children for about eight months when the shooting happened.

He died from a gunshot wound to the chest and the chief coroner has already stated there was no evidence that his death was not self-inflicted.

But there were still some big unanswered questions.

For example, no motive was ever given for the killings and accounts of Livingstone from his friends said they never saw any indication he would do such a thing.

There was also the question of how he got the gun he used when he did not have a gun licence.

Neighbours had also talked about seeing a can of petrol and believed he planned to burn down the house.

Neighbours and friends left flowers on Friday.

Neighbours and friends left flowers at the house. Photo: RNZ

The inquest

The inquest is expected to take four days and hear evidence from 18 witnesses from the family's neighbours and friends of Edward Livingstone, his employer, the Corrections department, and children's care agency Barnados.

Livingstone's former wife, the children's mother, Katharine Webb, is also expected to speak for the first time publicly about the events and her 10 year marriage.

And Livingstone's psychotherapist will give evidence about the 24 sessions of counselling she gave him from July to December 2013.

The therapist's name has been suppressed for now by the coroner, but her evidence will not be.

It could provide vital answers to his state of mind at the time and whether his violent action was or could have been predicted.