Toronto Star

Oct. 27, 2001, 02:00 EDT

Neighbours describe fight for Gillian

3 tried to wrest doomed woman from husband

Peter Small
Staff Reporter
The Toronto Star

'Nobody needs to die such a horrible death. This is an important problem that demands action.'
- JOHN WALLACE, neighbour who tried to save Gillian Hadley

A naked and frantic Pickering woman moaned in despair when her estranged husband forced two neighbours to retreat at gunpoint from a tug of war for her life, one of those neighbours recalls.

"When we backed down she moaned, because we were all she had," an emotional John Wallace testified yesterday at an inquest into the June 20, 2000 murder-suicide of Gillian and Ralph Hadley.

When Ralph, a 35-year-old postal worker, pulled a .22-calibre handgun from his pocket, Wallace and a teenager from a nearby home let go of Gillian and Ralph was then able to pull her back inside and close the front door.

"It was horrible," said Wallace, his voice breaking in a hushed coroner's courtroom. "Gillian was fighting with everything she had to get out of the house."

Wallace also made an impassioned plea for people to do everything they can to counter domestic violence. "Nobody needs to die such a horrible death," he said. "This is an important problem that demands action."

Wallace and his wife Anna had driven to the area from their home nearby, attracted by the noise after neighbours saw Ralph drag his struggling, wife back to the front door of 865 Hillcrest Rd.

He walked up to the house and rang the doorbell. A moment later Ralph opened the door. "I asked him if everything was okay here and he tried to play the situation down."

At that point, Gillian tried to dart out of the house with their 11-month-old son, Chase, in her arms. But Ralph grabbed her right arm.

Trying to calm Ralph down, Wallace tried to engage him in conversation. "I remember saying to him at some point, `She's naked. Get her some clothes.'"

But almost as if Ralph were repeating a mantra, he kept saying quietly, `She's psychotic. She's psychotic,'" Wallace testified. "He was fixated. He was very focused on taking his wife's life."

Then the teenager, Nowell Gordon, came and tugged at Gillian's arm to get her away and Wallace did likewise. But Ralph, a large man, seemed possessed of a superhuman strength and would not let go, Wallace said.

In the struggle, Gillian was thrown completely off balance and Anna Wallace was able to pry her baby from her grip.

Slowly, John Wallace and Gordon started to inch Gillian away from Ralph. "I thought we are going to win this."

Probably sensing he was losing control, Ralph pulled the small handgun from his pocket, Wallace said.

Fearing for the safety of more than 20 neighbours witnessing the struggle, Wallace shouted that Ralph had a gun.

Ralph closed the door, and about half a minute later Wallace heard a shot, then another shot 35 or 40 seconds later.

Anna Wallace testified that Gillian kept crying for help during the struggle.

But Ralph calmly countered by saying, "Everything is okay. It's all right," Anna Wallace told the inquest.

Crown counsel Al O'Marra and presiding coroner Dr. Bonita Porter thanked the Wallaces for their courage in trying to save Gillian.

Katherine Kisielowski, 28, who was taking care of her cousin's toddler nearby, said as Gordon and Wallace stood in front of the house, a police cruiser drove by and a girl tried to wave it down.

Matt Darby testified that Gillian had tried to get into his white Thunderbird minutes earlier that morning as he drove down Hillcrest after dropping his kids at school.

But Ralph grabbed his naked wife and she banged down on to the curb. Then "he kind of dragged her up" and started pulling her to the house.

Darby, who knew the couple slightly, got out of his car to try to free Gillian. "I just kept yelling at him, `What the f--- are you doing?' He didn't even acknowledge me at that point."

The inquest continues Monday.

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