National Post

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Friday, June 23, 2000

Having faith in the system let Gillian down badly
Some women can identify with murder victim
Rebecca Eckler
National Post

Glenn Lowson, National Post
The ink on a note to her slain mother, Gillian Hadley, from daughter Faith begins to run in a downpour yesterday outside their Pickering home.

Faith is such a pretty, sweet, and simple word. Faith is also a beautifully delicate name. Few such simple words hold so much meaning.

Faith is about conviction. It's about trust, reliance, dependence and confidence.

Gillian Hadley may have had faith that her life would get better: that her estranged husband, Ralph, would stop stalking, harassing and assaulting her; that the justice system would eventually protect her.

Faith, however, let Gillian down. Three days ago, Gillian ran from her house, frantic and naked, and handed over her baby boy, Christopher Chase, to a neighbour. Ralph pulled her back inside and shot her in the head, killing her. Then he turned the gun on himself.

The faith that Gillian surely had was in her pretty blonde daughter to whom she gave the name Faith eight years ago.

Outside the semi-detached bungalow, young Faith has left a note, among dozens of other bouquets and letters, written child-like in marker, for her mother:

"To Mom. I love you very much. I have loved you for 8 years. And I always will love you. I will remember how pretty you where. And how nice you where. xoxxxxxoxxxxo. The words mite be wrong but I love you mommy. Your daughter Faith."

The note was also signed by Mickey and Chase; "To Momma. I love you."

It's funny how you notice so much colour when something so bleak occurs.

Inside the house on Hillcrest Road, a baby's stroller sits in the living room. A blanket, with pictures of little, honey-coloured teddy bears hanging off pink, purple, and yellow parachutes, hangs over the back of the stroller. In the backyard, with its uncut green grass, is a blue swing set with a yellow plastic slide and matching teeter-totter. There's a blue basketball hoop and brown picnic table in the driveway.

A small, fluorescent-pink, banana-seat bike, with purple handlebars and sparkly tassels which fly with the wind when you ride, is locked to the covered barbecue.

White and blue Christmas lights still hang out front and a mat outside the front door reads; "Welcome." Near the mat, is a red, chewed-up dog's toy.

Childhood is about happy colours.

Almost all of the many visitors who stopped by the house to pay respects, many whom had never met Gillian and her family, brought their young children with them, grabbing on to their chubby little arms as they lay down colorful flowers. Almost every minivan which slowed down, pausing out front, had a baby seat in the back.

It's as if these mothers know something like this could happen, all too easily, to them.

There were other letters left out front. "When our lives are threatened and we struggle so hard to protect ourselves and our children. When our lives are threatened, is there no one to protect us? Gillian, I'm so very, very, sorry we couldn't have done more. Too little, by too few, too late."

And, "I'm sorry you had to leave this world in the horrible way you did ... I'm sorry you're not going to see your children blossom everyday."

And, "My kids and I took a walk in the beautiful weather. We are sure you would have enjoyed it with your kids. We picked these flowers in your honour."

"You try to do the right thing, and raise a family ..." said a sobbing Deborah Macpherson, with her toddler waiting in the car. "Seeing this, being here ... It's so hard. You never know you're in a bad relationship until it turns bad."

Most of the women who stopped by, when asked, admitted they've been in a unhealthy relationship. "You have to be careful who you love," said Meredith Clark. "This really gets to me. It's really painful." One woman, with her young cherub-cheeked son, said she needed a restraining order after her ex kidnapped their child for a day a couple years ago.

Another 17-year-old, Katie, admitted she's in a bad relationship now. "We've been together for a few months. He's threatened me. He's pulled a gun on me. I always knew a restraining order wouldn't mean anything."

Mid-afternoon, a yellow school bus full of children drove by Gillian's house, now boarded up. A sign on the side of the bus read, "On our journey to learning."

It's in faith we hope that this is the case.

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