Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Pickering, Ont., man's suicide note says he killed wife to 'save' son

Canadian Press

TORONTO (CP) - A man shot his estranged wife to death and then turned the gun on himself to protect his year-old son from future neglect by his mother - "a fate worse death," he said in a recorded suicide note played at a coroner's inquest Tuesday. "And while I'm still able, I must save my son from the darkness within (Gillian)," Ralph Hadley said in a recording made in June 2000.

"The fact that I must resort to such drastic measures sickens me more than anyone will ever know, but I must do what I feel in my heart to be the right thing."

Five months before killing Gillian Hadley, her husband found out she was having an affair. He expressed anger on the tape because he felt his wife was ignoring the needs of her three children, including one that he fathered.

Another child, Mikey Jr., who was severely disabled, was taken from the Hadleys' home because Ralph Hadley was alleged to have abused him.

Ralph Hadley denied on the tape that he had ever harmed the child.

He also advised his parents that he wanted to be cremated and, if possible, for his "ashes to be mingled" with his wife's and spread over the lake where the couple spent their honeymoon, "one of the happiest days of our lives."

Police discovered the tape and transcript in the Hadleys' backyard after they stormed the house, finding Gillian dead in the front hall and Ralph in the master bedroom, dead of a gunshot to the head from a .45-calibre semi-automatic handgun.

Also found was a bag containing duct tape, nylon rope, lighter fluid, a pornographic magazine, women's lingerie, photo albums containing pictures of Gillian and two other women dressed in lingerie, a book of matches inscribed with the couple's names and their wedding date, and a dog collar to which was attached a man's wedding ring, also inscribed with the October 1997 date.

Police were called to the residence where Gillian Hadley was living just before 9 a.m. on June 20, 2000.

Det.-Const. Mark Collins said an "unfortunate circumstance" led Durham police to the wrong house when responding to the 911 call. Before they arrived at the correct residence, a distraught neighbour described in a 911 call the horrific scene that had just played out before her eyes.

"(Ralph Hadley) opened the door and (Gillian Hadley) was trying to get out," a breathless Deborah Gordon told police in a call that was taped and played for the coroner's jury.

"She had a baby in her hands. Somebody took the baby from her. He dragged her back in and closed the door and I heard the shots."

Police had pulled into the driveway of a house with the same number as the Hadley residence but on an adjoining street. By the time they reached the correct home, the scene had escalated out of control.

Ralph Hadley was under police orders to stay away from his wife at the time, but he broke those bail conditions "numerous times," the inquest heard.

A 1997 snapshot of a smiling Gillian Hadley contrasted sharply with a police photo taken in January 2000, where she appeared bruised and puffy-eyed after being assaulted by her husband outside her lover's house.

Ralph Hadley later said that he and his wife had an agreement during their marriage that they wouldn't cheat on each other or be physically violent.

But as Collins explained to the inquest, Hadley later said "(Gillian) broke one (condition), so I broke the other."

After the Hadleys moved into their Pickering house in 1997, they had experienced trouble paying their mortgage, Collins told the five-member jury.

The couple had the added stress of caring for the severely disabled Mikey Jr.

Ralph Hadley was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm in February 1999 after the boy's nurses discovered "severe bruising" on his body, Collins said.

After being arrested and charged with assault against his wife, Hadley was released on condition that he stay away from her. When he showed up at her house again, he was ordered to live with his parents in east-end Toronto and to stay out of Pickering. He was also banned from possessing firearms.

But five months later, Hadley broke into his wife's home, surprising her and sending her running naked into the street.

Hadley shouted to onlookers, "She's psychotic," as he wrestled his wife from the car of a passing motorist and forced her back into her home. Gillian Hadley almost escaped when her husband opened the door for two concerned neighbours, but after she passed the baby to a woman, he brandished a gun and pulled the mother of three back inside.

The inquest is expected to hear from up to 70 people, including family members, representatives of the Children's Aid Society, the John Howard Society and the parenting association Fathers are Capable Parents Too.

It will examine broader issues of domestic violence, such as why restraining orders are not adequately enforced and even the impact of poor accessibility to affordable housing on single parents.

In July 1998, a coroner's jury made 213 recommendations regarding the systemic problems of domestic violence after hearing evidence about the deaths of Arlene May and Randy Iles, also the victims of murder-suicide.

Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General has said that 95 per cent of those recommendations have been or are in the process of being implemented.

© Copyright 2001 The Canadian Press

Copyright © 2001 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest Global Communications Corp.