Family court bomber, from Douglas Park, found guilty

Police outside Leonard Warwick's Douglas Park home in 2015. Picture: Sam Venn
Police outside Leonard Warwick's Douglas Park home in 2015. Picture: Sam Venn

More than three decades after his bitter Family Court battles, Douglas Park resident Leonard Warwick has been convicted of murdering a judge, another judge's wife and a man attending church.

The so-called Family Court bomber waged a campaign of extreme violence against those he believed acted adversely towards him in his drawn-out dispute with his ex-wife Andrea Blanchard.

After a lengthy judge-alone trial in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Peter Garling on Thursday, July 23 found the 73-year-old former firefighter guilty of 20 offences relating to six Sydney events between February 1980 and July 1985.

They included the shooting murder of Justice David Opas and the bomb-related murders of Pearl Watson, the wife of Justice Raymond Watson, and Graham Wykes, who died in an explosion at a Jehovah's Witnesses hall.

The judge acquitted Warwick of murdering his brother-in-law Stephen Blanchard, whose body was found with bricks attached around his waist in a national park creek, far from where he was said to have been shot dead.

"I am not satisfied that Mr Blanchard had any connection of any relevance or significance to the accused's family law proceedings," he said.

It was highly likely a minimum of two people were involved in the murder and there was no direct evidence which connected Warwick to the crime.

Former Family Court chief justice Elizabeth Evatt said the victims of Warwick's violence must have some sense of relief now he had been brought to justice.

"His malevolent violence against the Family Court and those connected with it destroyed many lives, and caused deep grief and irreparable harm to his victims, their families and to many of us in the Court," she said.

"We were deeply shocked and grieved in 1980 when he shot Justice David Opas, and again in 1984 when Justices Richard Gee and Ray Watson were badly injured and Pearl Watson killed by Warwick's bombs.

"Nothing can repair the grave harms he has caused to so many.

"I would like to thank the police for their perseverance in the investigation of these cases."

Justice Garling was satisfied the six violent events were all linked to Warwick's anger over his court proceedings.

Central to his guilty verdicts was his findings on the final event, the explosion which ripped apart the Jehovah's Witnesses hall.

The bomb, which had been placed under the stage, killed Mr Wykes and seriously injured 13 other members of the congregation, which had offered support to Ms Blanchard.

The judge was satisfied Warwick had broken into the hall one week earlier as a reconnaissance, breaking a window resulting in his bleeding onto the carpet and cardboard boxes.

He accepted scientific evidence which many years later identified Warwick's DNA on the items and noted the blood was the same blood type as Warwick's.

Joy Wykes testified her husband was sitting at the end of the row and they were holding hands.

Because it was quite a cold day, she had a little rug and placed it over their hands.

Her husband realised why she did it and whispered "I love you" and "that's when the bomb went off".

As well as the three murders, Warwick also was found to have bombed Justice Richard Gee's home with intent to murder him, bombed the court building at Parramatta and placed a car bomb at the previous home of Ms Blanchard's solicitor.

The new resident found the bomb under his car bonnet when he opened it to do some repairs.

Detectives arrested Warwick for his then-alleged crimes at a gym in Campbelltown in July 2015, while other officers were raiding his Douglas Park at the same time.

Law Council of Australia president Pauline Wright issued a statement on the conviction on Friday, July 24.

"More than three decades have passed since a campaign of death and destruction was waged against the Family Court and its judges, and family lawyers," she said.

"It is hoped that yesterday's verdicts offer some solace to those who lost loved ones and whose lives were shattered by the appalling events that took place in the 1980's.

"The fortitude displayed by the judges and staff of the Court, who remained working during this time, demonstrates their extraordinary commitment to deliver excellence in service for children and families and a deep respect for the needs of separating families.

"These attacks by an individual on members of the judiciary went to the heart of justice in Australia. Any attempt to intimidate a judicial officer to achieve a desired outcome or to punish them for an unfavourable outcome is deplorable and must be condemned.

"Our thoughts go out to the victims' families and for the many people who were affected, including current and former judges and staff of the Family Court."

Warwick will face a sentence hearing on August 20.