'Forever in our hearts'

BACK HOME: Katharine Webb with Bradley and Ellen Livingstone
BACK HOME: Katharine Webb with Bradley and Ellen Livingstone

A hand-shaped bronze plaque, inscribed with the names of Ellen and Bradley Livingstone and the words, "Forever in our hearts", is at child's height beside a set of stairs at St Leonards School in Dunedin.

The school, which overlooks Otago Harbour, has worked hard to make children feel safe after Bradley, 9, and Ellen, 6, were shot dead by their father, Edward Livingstone, while their mother, Katharine Webb, ran screaming for help.

Their efforts earned the school a special community award.

TRAGIC LOSS: Bradley and Ellen Livingstone.
TRAGIC LOSS: Bradley and Ellen Livingstone.

Now principal Jo Wilson wants to start a community-level project to make St Leonards a "child-friendly" area and encourage people to open up.

"It's OK to talk about it, it's not embarrassing, it's life. Don't be frightened by other people's attitudes," she said.

She knows it might not have stopped the events of January 15, but it is a start.

KILLER: Edward Livingstone shot his two children.
KILLER: Edward Livingstone shot his two children.

"We can't just let it lie and let everything go back to as it was, because it's never going to be the same. So let's see what else we can do."

It was school holidays and Ellen and Bradley were asleep in their beds when Livingstone turned up to the Kiwi St house shortly before 10pm.

Livingstone, 51, had twice breached a protection order after she ended their marriage in May 2013. A court document said Webb had been terrified for her safety and that of their children.

BOUTS OF GRIEF: St Leonards School principal Jo Wilson: ‘‘It’s never going to be the same.’’
BOUTS OF GRIEF: St Leonards School principal Jo Wilson: ‘‘It’s never going to be the same.’’

Webb ran to Mel and Chris Foot's home next door screaming "he's going to kill my babies" before the shots rang out.

Chris Foot confronted Livingstone, but was shot at and had to retreat.

Livingstone, an Otago Prison administrator, then took his own life.

TRAGEDY SCENE: The house on Kiwi St in Dunedin where Edward Livingstone killed his two children.
TRAGEDY SCENE: The house on Kiwi St in Dunedin where Edward Livingstone killed his two children.

Now, Webb is back living in the Kiwi St house, which has been freshly renovated.

She was due to return to her job at Work and Income this month.

Edward Livingstone's estate has been distributed.

His ashes were scattered at Aramoana, according to his wishes outlined in his will, a friend said.

The will, updated less than a month before the killings, appointed his United States-based sister, Suzanne, as his children's guardian in the event of his death.

He left nothing to Webb.

Mel Foot said earlier that Webb was carrying on the best she could and putting on a brave face.

Foot's husband, Chris, was undergoing psychotherapy to try to deal with the trauma of that night.

"He's a brave man. He saw an awful lot and he's got to live with that for the rest of his life," she said.

They had contemplated selling their own home after the killings. Her young son was mates with Bradley and her husband was close to Ellen.

"She was always hanging out of her bedroom window when he got home from work ‘hi Chris, hi Chris'," Mel Foot said.

"So, he's got to live with the last images of Ellen."

Wilson, principal at St Leonards for four years, remembers the phone call at 6.10am on January 16.

It was a member of the media with the dreadful news.

She hung up and phoned the police.

"They said, ‘yes, but we can't tell you who', she said. "But everybody knew.

"I just felt sick."

Dealing with such an event was "not in the handbook", she said.

Wilson made the call to open the school.

Staff phoned parents and told them, "the school is here if you need to come in", she said.

"It was a natural progression, if anything was going to happen, this was going to be the place to touch base with everyone."

"So that was it."

Webb asked to hold the funeral at the school.

"Katharine said she wanted people who knew them [Bradley and Ellen] and a place where they always felt safe and happy. "There wasn't any other place it could be."

A counsellor came in for the first two terms. She worked for the first little while with the kids and the families.

"It was about making it feel like this was a safe place, because that was the biggest concern."

"Everyone knows everyone down the streets. It brought the community together."

Wilson, who has kept in touch with Webb, still had bouts of her own grief.

Bradley and Ellen were memorable pupils.

"They were lively, loving kids. Bradley was an amazing big brother," Wilson said.

They still came up in the children's conversations "every now and then".

The high-five hand was a way for the students to remember them.

It was "a kid thing" to say, "come with me".

"The kids needed something to hook into. You can tell they still worry. They want to make sure everybody is really safe," Wilson said.

The school planted native trees where children could play hide and seek. A fundraiser raised enough money to purchase a flying fox - something Bradley and Ellen "would have really loved".

Wilson wanted the school community to keep in touch these Christmas holidays.

"It's important to talk about it, if you are worried," she said.

Lesley Elliott, who started an anti-domestic violence foundation after her daughter, Sophie, was murdered, had been in touch with one of Webb's relatives and knew the family was "struggling".

Losing a child was something you had to live with, not something from which you could recover, she said.

The deaths have been referred to the coroner, but no hearing date has been set.

 

TIMELINE

May 2013: Katharine Webb ends marriage with Edward Livingstone.

July/September: Livingstone twice breaches a protection order. He receives a discharge without conviction for both.

December 17, 2013: Edward Livingstone updates his will leaving nothing for Webb.

January 15, 2014: Edward Livingstone arrives at Webb's Kiwi St house. He shoots dead their children Ellen, 6, and Bradley, 9. He then takes his own life. 


The Press