Ed Livingstone's former wife felt "constantly harassed" and feared for the safety of her family in the months before he killed their two children and took his own life, according to court documents.
Three months before this week's killing, the 51-year-old was discharged without conviction for breaching a protection order against his family for a second time.
In his judgment then, Judge Stephen Coyle said Livingstone's estranged wife, Katherine Webb, felt "constantly harassed" and feared for her own safety and that of her children.
Livingstone called her cellphone and left a message, apologising for his past actions, on October 11.
"That you made contact, in and of itself, was frightening to your wife ... 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," the judgment noted.
"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 protection order had been issued on May 5. It was issued by Ms Webb, but also applied to their children.
The maximum penalty for breaching the order at the time was two years' imprisonment yet Livingstone walked away without a conviction the second time after receiving diversion the first time.
The breach was described in the judge's decision as multiple phone calls to both Ms Webb's landline and mobile phone, and a voicemail left on her home phone.
"The content of the message, it is accepted, was not in any way threatening or intimidating, but ... that you made contact, in and of itself, was frightening to your wife."
In his defence, Livingstone said he believed he would lose his Corrections job at Otago Prison if he were convicted.
He had seen a psychiatrist following the incident, he said, "who changed the medication [he was] receiving" to make him more stable.
Judge Coyle approved Livingstone's appeal for conviction without on the basis a conviction would be ``out of proportion'', and he walked free.
"There is a real and appreciable risk that you might lose your employment as a consequence, and I am satisfied that that consequence is out of proportion to the gravity of your offending and I grant the application," he said.
The defendant's age and lack of previous convictions were also taken into account, as was his "mental health issues which have now, to a large extent, been alleviated through the adjustment of [his] medication".
Livingstone was instead ordered to make a $500 donation to the Dunedin Stopping Violence programme.
Calls for protection order review
Labour has added its voice to calls for a review of legal protection orders following the tragic deaths.
"This heart breaking waste of lives should never have happened," Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Carol Beaumont said.
"It raises many questions about how we deal with family violence and shows we need to have a serious rethink on the effectiveness of protection orders.
"A review of the process should look at targeting early intervention - providing more resources and support to both parties."
Ms Beaumont said it was worth considering broadening the scope of police safety orders which would allow police to initiate a protection order where they deemed a situation to be dangerous rather than relying on a potential victim to apply for an order.
"But we particularly need to look at how the police and courts respond to breaches of protection orders," she said.
Labour justice spokesman Andrew Little said more tools may be needed by the courts and police to make protection orders more effective.
"This could include a requirement for a risk assessment of offenders on a second or subsequent breach of a protection order, something that is already done on bail applications.
"Another consideration is for District Courts to take over the issuing of protection orders from the Family Court. This would move the focus from one of conciliation to one of enforcement."
"That a number of agencies working on the frontline have expressed concerns about our current legislation is a clear message that things aren't working," Ms Beaumont said.
"We need to be vigilant in this area, especially where the risks are so high, and ensure that our responses are effective in providing protection."
Chief executive of Women's Refuge Heather Henare said there needed to be a stronger response to protection order breaches.
"We need to concentrate on the fact that there is a link between breaches of protection orders and domestic violence murders in this country.
"People who threaten to kill should be treated in the most high risk category with strong consequences."
Ms Henare said all breaches of protection orders "should be treated with the full force of our law".
"This tragic incident is the worst kind of wake up call for this country around the severity and frequency of domestic and family violence in our communities."
Plan to burn house down
Livingstone arrived at his former family home in Dunedin with a petrol canister planning to burn down the house with his children and himself inside, former friends said today.
Livingstone told friends as early as last August of his plan to murder his children and then take his own life after becoming "consumed with revenge" after breaking up with his wife Katharine Webb, APNZ has been told.
After he told friends a complaint was laid with police.
But the complainant said she was never interviewed, and police didn't follow up.
The source said Livingstone showed up at Kiwi St in the suburb of St Leonards on Wednesday night with a petrol canister.
His plan was foiled when Ms Webb ran next door to try to get friend Chris Foot to talk him down.
Mr Foot confronted Livingstone from the front porch.
Livingstone was reloading his double-barrelled shotgun when Mr Foot arrived.
He then loaded it, aimed the gun at Mr Foot, and stumbled back when he fired a shot at his head.
The shot narrowly missed Mr Foot, passing over his head.
He then ran round the back of the house to try to get the two children, Bradley, 9, and Ellen, 6, out but found them dead in their beds.
Livingstone then turned the gun on himself and took his own life.
A woman who answered the door this morning at the Dunedin home of Mrs Livingstone's parents, Victor and Valerie Webb, said: "We've got no comment to make."
He and Ms Webb split up last May and Livingstone took it very badly, friends say.
"He had this premeditated," the source said.
"He told me in August what he wanted to do. He made his mind up months ago.
"He told us what he wanted to do was that he wanted to kill his family, leave them in their bed, take an overdose of sleeping tablets, pour petrol around the beds, and light it.
"He was consumed with revenge. The kids were Katharine's life - they were the centre of her universe - and he knew that killing them was the worst thing he could do to her, and that's why he did it.
"He was psychotic. He had serious mental health problems."
Livingstone's secret key
The woman said he had his own house key that Ms Webb didn't know about.
He used that key to gain entry through a side door, armed with the petrol canister. The keys were still in the lock to the door after the shootings, the source said.
The source said the woman had no time to get her kids out of the house and away from Livingstone.
"He had a gun and she was petrified. The kids were asleep and there was no way she could've got them out alone. He would've shot them there and then.
"So she tried to get Chris (Foot) to try to do something."
Ms Webb was so scared of Livingstone that she slept in her bedroom with a loud panic alarm beside her bed.
She had told neighbours that if they ever heard the alarm sounding, to phone police immediately, "because it was him doing something".