To his family, Edward Livingstone was a placid, easy-going man who spoke regularly of how much he loved his children.
But a neighbour of the two children Livingstone shot, while they were asleep in their beds, said the deaths were the result of a vengeful campaign by an obsessed man.
The mentally unwell 51-year-old Dunedin corrections officer turned up at his estranged wife's house in St Leonards with a can of petrol and a shotgun, using a secret key to get inside.
He apparently wanted to get back at Katharine Webb for ending their marriage in May last year.
A court document said Webb had been terrified for her safety and that of their children, Bradley, 9, and Ellen, 6, after Livingstone twice breached a protection order she had against him.
Both times he escaped convictions - the most recent in September - out of fears he might lose his job at Otago Prison.
Livingstone shot the children in their beds shortly before 10pm on Wednesday, while Webb ran screaming for help.
"She [Webb] burst through the door and she said: he's got a gun and he's going to kill my babies," neighbour Mel Foot said.
Foot's husband, Chris, ran next door and confronted the gunman on the front porch but not before two shots had rung out.
He told Livingstone to put the double-barrelled shotgun down but narrowly missed being shot himself. After Foot ran home, Livingstone turned the gun on himself.
Mel Foot said Livingstone had been "insane for months and months", adding he had talked about killing his estranged wife and burning their house down.
If he had received a tougher sentence for breaching the protection order, the children would still be alive, she said.
Foot said on one occasion last year, Livingstone had followed 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 chased her all around [St Leonards]. She had to turn her lights off and hide in someone's driveway. She was petrified," Foot said. "He was so obsessed it was downright scary," she said.
In the end all the precautions Webb took proved fruitless.
In the end he targeted their children to inflict maximum distress.
"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.
"We're just glad he's dead."
Livingstone's family in Australia were last night "shell-shocked" to learn of the deaths.
Karen Scott said her stepbrother was "placid" and a "really easy-going guy". She last spoke to him on his birthday in November.
He had recently started dating a Christchurch cafe manager, who it was understood he met online, and Scott had been pleased to learn of the new relationship.
Her stepbrother also never spoke of any marriage problems before he and Webb split.
However, he was "a very private person" and was unlikely to ask for help if he was struggling to cope. "It doesn't seem real. I didn't even know he was depressed," Scott said. "It was always how much he loved his kids."
Shirley Crease last saw her stepson while holidaying in Queenstown about three years ago. To learn he had shot his children dead and himself was "a hell of a shock".
"I can't believe it.
"It's just devastating."
Livingstone and his younger sister, Suzanne, were born in Christchurch.
Their mother left when they were both very young, leaving the children with their father, Duncan, to raise with the help of his parents.
Duncan Livingstone moved the family to Sydney for better job opportunities, where Edward Livingstone grew up.
Livingstone Jr moved back to New Zealand about the time he started a family with Webb.
Others who knew Livingstone said he changed dramatically while struggling with severe mental illness.
A ruling by Judge Stephen Coyle in the Dunedin District Court said Livingstone was on medication and seeing a psychiatrist when he breached the protection order last September.
However, the medication was not quite "levelling" him out.
Livingstone was in Milton and rang his wife's cellphone a number of 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.
"You were [unable] to totally control and manage your behaviours, and things again got on top of you and you reacted spontaneously and in contravention of the order," Judge Coyle told Livingstone at the hearing on November 15.
"She became very anxious and fearful, and she felt alone and unprotected.
"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.
"She states candidly that she cannot take much more of the contact from you and the breaches of the protection order," the judge said.
Livingstone's psychiatrist later changed his medication but did not specify what drugs Livingstone was taking.
The Corrections worker was ordered to pay $500 in reparation.
Foot joined a growing number of residents in the street to voice concern about the time it took police to respond to the incident.
They say it took armed officers at least 50 minutes to arrive at the scene.
Inspector Greg Sparrow said: "Police are more than happy with the response time considering the fluid and unfolding situation, ensuring the safety of members of the public and attending police staff."
Police are now investigating on behalf of the coroner and will not release further details about the shooting.
Webb's family declined to comment.
St Leonards School board of trustees chairman Ceri Warnock said the school had been inundated with calls of support for the family of the two slain children.
The school had set up a bank account for donations, she said.
The ANZ Bank account number is: 06 09090401308 00.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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