Children's killer escaped conviction

Last updated 16:48 17/01/2014
Edward Livingstone
KILLER: Edward Livingstone shot his two children.
A young boy lays flowers by the house in Dunedin where two children and a man were killed in apparent murder-suicide.

Dunedin murder-suicide

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Edward Livingstone badly frightened his estranged wife when he breached an order of protection for a second time last September – but he was let off without conviction out of fears that he might lose his job.

The Corrections worker was ordered to pay $500 toward a Dunedin domestic violence prevention group as reparation, even though a judge stipulated Livingstone's breach of the order was "frightening" to his estranged wife.

A neighbour, Mel Foot, told Fairfax Media that if Livingstone had received a tougher sentence for breaching the protection order the children would still be alive.

"He's been insane for months and months," she said, adding Livingstone had talked about killing his estranged wife and burning her house down.

"He's been really psychotic – not well." 

Livingstone was on medication and seeing a psychiatrist when he breached the protection order, according to a court document.

It said his psychiatrist changed his medication after the breach, but did not specify what drugs Livingstone was taking.

Livingstone, 51, shot and killed his children after turning up at Katharine Webb's Dunedin house in the harbourside suburb of St Leonards with a can of petrol and a shotgun on Wednesday night.

He used a secret key to get inside and shot dead Bradley, 9, and Ellen, 6. 

Livingstone's body was found in the house.

The court documents show that Webb felt harassed and feared for her safety and that of her children after he called her repeatedly and eventually and left a message on her phone apologising for his behaviour.

Webb had a protection order against Livingstone, which was issued on May 5, 2013. Livingstone breached the order twice.

The most recent was on September 14, for which he was granted a discharge without conviction. Judge Stephen Coyle's ruling said Livingstone was in Milton and rang his wife's cellphone several times, but she did not answer.

Then, as she was talking to a friend on the cellphone, he rang her home phone and left a message on her answer service apologising for his previous behaviour.

Webb phoned police after she received the message. 

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Judge Coyle said the content of the message was not in any way threatening or intimidating. Rather, it "really was left to apologise as, in effect, an olive branch to the victim".

However, the contact frightened Webb.

 "She realised the calls were from you and because of the frequency of the calls on the cellphone, she became very anxious and fearful, and she felt alone and unprotected," Judge Coyle told Livingstone at the November 15 court hearing.

"She remains fearful that you will breach the protection order and describes feeling constantly harassed and fearful for her safety and that of the children."

Still, the judge discharged Livingstone without conviction, writing that if he was convicted there was a "real and appreciable risk" Livingstone might lose his job as an administration support officer at Otago prison.

Coyle instead ordered Livingstone to donate $500 to Dunedin Stopping Violence.

The incident came after an earlier protection order breach, for which Livingstone was arrested but for which he was granted diversion.


A neighbour, meanwhile, said the deaths were the culmination of a terror campaign by an obsessed man.

"He was so obsessed it was downright scary," Foot told Fairfax Media.

He had chased his wife around the streets in his car, and Webb was so scared of him she had installed an alarm by her bed so she could alert neighbours if she was in danger.

He shot the children dead as Webb ran screaming for help.

"Her children were her world and he knew that, and he was that insane that he thought he would kill the two things that were closest to her," Foot said.

She recalled an incident last year when Livingstone had harassed Webb.

"I had an urgent phone call from her [Webb] on her cellphone and she'd just rung the police." Livingstone had been waiting in his car for Webb to come home.

 "As soon as he spotted her he chased her all around [St Leonards]. She had to turn her lights off and hide in someone's driveway. She was petrified." 

In the end all the precautions she took proved fruitless, as the tragic events erupted in Kiwi St.

"She [Webb] burst through the door and she said, 'he's got a gun and he's going to kill my babies'."

Two shots had already shattered the silence in the quiet suburban street.

Foot said her husband, Chris, ran next door and confronted the gunman on the porch.

"All my husband was interested in doing was saving the children," she said.

"He didn't care about his life, he didn't care if he got shot at."

He told Livingstone to put the gun down, but narrowly missed being shot himself.

"As he [Livingstone] pulled the trigger he stumbled backwards and shot above Chris' head instead," Foot said.

"He's [Chris] really lucky to be here because he actually intended to kill Chris."

Foot said her barefoot husband ran home to put on a pair of boots before returning next door to try to save the children, not realising they were already dead.

"After being shot at he just wanted to kick the door in and get the kids," she said.

"He went through the back door and found them already deceased [in bed]." Livingstone's body was lying in the main bedroom at the front of the house.

"What he [her husband] has seen is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. He loved those kids." 

Foot said she had been friends with her neighbours for years.

"They were happy bubbly children. If those kids weren't there they were here. They were together all the time. I've had to send my son away because his best friends are gone."

Foot said Webb split with her husband as "he was psychotic and she was genuinely scared of him".

"We're just glad he's dead," Foot said.


Webb's employer, the Ministry of Social Development agency Work and Income, said the tragedy had impacted on staff across the country.

"We're all devastated and shocked," deputy chief executive of Work and Income Debbie Power said.

"As you can appreciate, staff thoughts have been with Katharine and her family.

"Everyone who knows her will need time and space to deal with this tragedy." 

Power said the Dunedin South Community Link where Webb was a case manager was closed for two hours yesterday morning.

Managers talked with staff and put support in place for them, she said.

"Over the coming days, people will be considering the best ways of supporting Katharine and her wider family and friends, in ways that will make a real difference for her.

"We will also support our colleagues as they come to terms with what has happened.

- Fairfax Media

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