Toronto Star

Oct. 24, 2001, 02:00 EDT

A killer's last chilling message

Husband's taped words tell of plot to `eliminate' his wife

Peter Small
The Toronto Star

HAPPY DAY: Gillian and Ralph Hadley on their wedding day in October 1997.

Ralph Hadley said he had no choice but to kill his wife and himself, according to a rambling last audiotaped statement played for an inquest jury.

His last testament, heard yesterday, contained a detailed account of their failed marriage, his suspicions and then discovery of her infidelity — and the rationale for his plans to do away with both their lives: He thought she was an immoral, selfish and unfit mother for their baby, Chase.

"I really didn't have a choice. The law would not provide me with enough time with Chase to counteract Jill's influence and if I am to save his soul, this is the only way. The threat must be eliminated," his solemn voice rang out in coroner's courtroom yesterday.

"The darkness of death will soon consume me, but my soul will rejoice within the body (of) my son and I will live in the light of his love for the rest of eternity."

His chilling account from beyond the grave is the clearest insight to emerge into the motives of the 35-year-old postal worker in two days of an inquest into the June 20, 2000, murder-suicide in Pickering.

The Hadley relationship was difficult almost from the beginning. He was her second husband, and had been charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm to Michael, the severely disabled boy from Gillian's first marriage.

When, despite his protestations of innocence, he decided not to fight the charge but instead accept a peace bond ordering him not to be alone with Michael, that was the last straw that broke their marriage, Ontario Provincial Police Detective-Constable Mark Collins testified yesterday. That effectively kept the disabled child away from their Pickering home.

"Gillian was adamant that he shouldn't accept the peace bond, feeling that he hadn't done anything," Collins testified. She knew that the peace bond would mean her son would be outside the family home, in the custody of her former husband, for at least another year, Collins said.

But yesterday, Ralph's taped statement expressed doubt even of Gillian's love for Michael.

"If she loves him as much as she says, then why hasn't she gotten him back or tried to get him back yet. I left beginning of January. It's now almost the end of June."

In August 1995, shortly after the birth of Christopher Chase — the only child they conceived together — even he was added to the Durham Children's Aid Society child protection order, and Ralph was not allowed to be alone with him either without responsible adult supervision.

Ralph's tape gives a blow-by-blow account of how he had first suspected Gillian was deceiving him with another man when, he said, she lied about spending the night with Michael at the Hospital for Sick Children on Dec. 29, 1999.

He described finding her in bed with another man after being tipped off by relatives. "I think it was then I probably went into shock. I don't remember exactly what I said," Ralph's taped voice said.

`I will live in the light of (my son's) love for the rest of eternity ... I'm going to try and end this as quietly as I can, but I know something is going to go wrong. It always does.'
- Ralph Hadley

Collins testified yesterday that the couple were said to have made a pact that they would not sleep around, and that they "wouldn't get physical with each other."

But after catching her in the act, Ralph waited outside for her and, after she emerged, slapped her across the face, then allegedly banged her head against a brick wall. Hadley later said, "she broke one (rule), so I broke the other," Collins testified.

She escaped from him on that occasion and later called Durham Region police. The inquest jury saw photos taken by a Durham police officer on the day of the meeting, her face swollen and marked.

Ralph was charged with assault and put under restrictive orders to live in his parents' Scarborough home and not to contact her. But he broke those conditions many times.

Finally, on June 20, he arrived in the backyard of their home on 865 Hillcrest Rd., with a duffel bag filled with bizarre objects, including 13 articles of women's lingerie, pictures of Gillian and three other women striking explicit poses, and a dog collar attached to what appeared to be a man's wedding ring engraved with the couple's Oct. 18, 1997 wedding date, Collins testified.

Hadley also had a detailed, written plan on how to break into the house where he knew she would be alone with Chase at about 9 a.m. The plan included waiting until Faith, her daughter from her first marriage, went to school, and cutting the phone lines.

Court also heard 911 calls from neighbours describing a naked woman running from the house and being dragged inside by a large man.

"Apparently he opened the door and she tried to get out again and she had a baby in her — she was still naked. She had a baby in her hands and the neighbour lady, you know, grabbed the baby from her and my son and the other man were trying to help get her out of the house," said a frantic call by Deborah Gordon.

"He got the woman in again and I heard what I thought was gunshots."

The tape Ralph left was prophetic about the way he ended their lives, with a bullet from an unlicensed handgun to each of their heads, first her, then quickly after, him.

"I'm going to try and end this as quietly as I can, but I know something is going to go wrong. It always does."

Bizarrely, one of his last requests was to have his ashes mingled with Gillian's "and spread over Lake Kashawigamog, where we spent our honeymoon and I'm sure one of the happiest days of our lives."

The inquest before Dr. Bonita Porter continues.

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