Globe and Mail

Inquest called into Pickering tragedy

Domestic violence will be focus of inquiry

The Globe and Mail
Friday, June 30, 2000

An inquest will examine last week's murder-suicide involving a Pickering mother of three who was shot dead by her estranged husband, Chief Coroner Dr. James Young announced yesterday.

Not everybody applauded the decision.

"I think this is the most stupid, useless waste of money," said Vivien Green, co-ordinator of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto and a member of the province's Joint Committee on Domestic Violence, which last August issued 213 recommendations on the problem.

"We already know what to do; this is not rocket science. What we need is immediate action."

Dr. Young rejected the suggestion that nothing new could be learned from the tragedy.

"It's important that all of the facts be known, and known to everyone," he said. "It's a complicated, important issue, and we should look at it and see if there are any gaps [in the system] and see if there's more to be done."

The deaths of Gillian and Ralph Hadley, aged 35 and 34 respectively, captured national headlines when Mrs. Hadley was killed after she ran naked and screaming from her home in a quiet subdivision just east of Toronto. She had managed to hand the couple's 11-month-old baby to a neighbour before being dragged back into the house and shot with a handgun.

Her former husband had defied repeated court orders to stay away from Mrs. Hadley, the mother of two young children from a previous marriage. After shooting her in the head, he turned the gun on himself.

The inquest, which will not take take place until next year because of a crowded coroners' schedule, is likely to re-examine domestic-violence matters aired at the 1998 inquest into the death of Arlene May.

Ms. May was killed two years earlier in Collingwood, Ont., by an ex-boyfriend, Randy Iles, who was free on bail after assaulting and stalking her. Mr. Iles then committed suicide.

That's precisely the problem, said Ms. Green: It's all been examined before.

The largely overlooked committee on which she sat stemmed from the May-Iles inquest, and both hearings issued more than 200 recommendations.

These included calls for better access to affordable housing, counselling and transitional support; risk assessments for violence-prone spouses and partners, and stiffer penalties for violating court orders.

"We know why [Mr. Hadley] was able to do this," Ms. Green said. "He was charged, released and given court orders that he did not obey. . . . A risk assessment would have shown that he had started talking about suicide.''

Other front-line social workers have echoed the complaint that change has been too slow in coming.

Dr. Young denied that there have been no improvements since the May-Iles inquest.

"Because of the May-Iles inquest, a good deal of training has gone on with police and Crown attorneys.''

On Tuesday, Attorney-General Jim Flaherty announced that over the next few years the provincial government will spend up to $50-million to aid victims of domestic violence.

Much of that money will be spent on better computer links among shelters and rape-crisis centres and the justice system.

In the case of Mr. Hadley, it emerged that in the preceding six months he had had at least three encounters with police, all involving violence or threats against his former wife.

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