Durham Region


Into the spotlight

Five murders in Durham have raised questions about rights of abused

Keith Gilligan, Staff Writer
Nov. 21, 2001
Port Perry
Ajax News Advertiser

Marcia Harmon and her six-year-old daughter, Danielle, were killed by their husband and father, Montgomery Harmon in March in Durham Region. Mr. Harmon later died in hospital following a suicide attempt after the murders. Mrs. Harmon is one of three women killed in Durham by their husbands in the last two years.

DURHAM -- Five and hopefully not counting.

In the past 18 months, four women in Ajax and Pickering have been murdered, while another woman was killed in Oshawa just under two years ago. The women were shot, poisoned or pummelled. In one case, a child was also killed.

Marcia Harmon, 42, and her six-year-old daughter, Danielle, were killed last March in their Pickering home by their husband and father, Montgomery Harmon. He survived a suicide attempt by drug overdose, but died two days later in hospital of a massive blood clot in his lungs. He was in police custody at the time of his death after being charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

In June, the body of Andrea Schneider, 38, was found stuffed in the truck of a car in the parking lot of the Durham Centre in Ajax. Her common-law husband James Stewart Poland, 37, has been charged with murder.

On Mother's Day 2000, Hemoutie Raghunauth, 28, was found dead in her Pickering home. Toxicology tests showed she had been poisoned. Her husband Ganeshram Raghunauth has been charged with murder.

And then there's Gillian Hadley. The Pickering woman's June 2000 murder by estranged husband Ralph, who then killed himself, is the subject of an ongoing coroner's inquest. It's the second such inquest dealing with women living in abusive relationships that led to murder. One of the recommendations from the previous inquest was providing an abused woman with access to advocates who can help them with employment, day care and safe housing.

At the time of the Hadley murder-suicide, Mr. Hadley was under a restraining order to stay away for the couple's home, to not contact her, had to live with his parents and not possess firearms. The inquest has heard testimony that aside from living with his parents, Mr. Hadley ignored or broke many of the provisions set out in the restraining order.

A trial also wrapped up in Whitby recently in which Robert Bateman of Belleville admitted to shooting and killing his estranged wife Valerie Lucas-Bateman of Barrie on Dec. 4, 1999 in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in Oshawa. Mr. Bateman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 21 years. The couple had a stormy relationship.

Spousal abuse is "an issue of control, dominance and manipulation of your partner," said Durham Regional Police Detective Constable Cheryl Carter.

Or, as the adage goes, 'If I can't have her, nobody can.'

She points to the last will and testament of Mr. Hadley, in which he laid out how he felt Mrs. Hadley wasn't a fit mother and that he had no choice but to take the course of action he did.

A Durham police officer for almost six years, Det. Const. Carter is also president of the Ajax-Pickering Women's Centre, a home currently being set up in west Durham for abused women and children. In her training to work with women involved in abusive relationships, she's learned characteristics about abusers and their actions.

For instance, she dismisses the fact Mr. Hadley had been suffering from depression and people claim the disorder "made him act that way. He wasn't suffering from acute or severe depression. Lots of people suffer from it. That doesn't mean they murder their wife and kid."

Pointing to items Mr. Hadley was carrying the day of the murder, Det. Const. Carter says he had a plan when he arrived at the Pickering home.

"He was going to torture her, punish her. She was probably going to face hours and hours of torture," she says. "It was a script of what he was going to do to her. He wasn't compelled to do it."

He justified his actions by saying Mrs. Hadley didn't put the children first and that women should be subservient to men.

"He was losing control and he wasn't delusional," Det. Const. Carter says.

She notes abusers may use a bad day, financial problems or other problems as excuses.

"I know (the Hadleys) had financial problems. I don't know who was controlling the finances. I know he didn't (financially) support Gillian and the children at all," the officer adds.

Following the marriage breakup, Mrs. Hadley started a relationship with another man. That type of situation, notes Det. Const. Carter, leads to the abuser blaming the victim for his plight.

"They were separated and he was out of the house. What she was doing is none of his business. She's not responsible for him in any way, shape or form," Det. Const. Carter states.

After catching Mrs. Hadley with her lover, Mr. Hadley slapped her and smashed her head against a brick wall. One of the ironies of the Hadley inquest is it might open the eyes of some women to the fact they're being abused.

Both Det. Const. Carter and Nicky Sandher, of the Women's Rights Action Coalition of Durham (WRAC), agree with the thought, saying it puts a face to a victim and abuse in general.

"You can only hope," is how Det. Const. Carter puts it. "Some wonder why she didn't leave him. She didn't have any family support. Don't blame her. It was a matter of choice he had.

"We have to hold the abuser accountable. If we want to call ourselves a just society, we have to hold right from wrong. If you break the law, justice will be severe. If there's a restraining order and if you ignore it, then you'll be held accountable."

Ms. Sandher adds, "It's great to have (publicity) out there every three days. How many times will her picture be in the paper?"

The courts are the other half of the equation, Det. Const. Carter says.

"It amazes me the number of repeat offenders we have," she notes.

She drew a comparison to drunk driving.

"It's not that alcoholics drive, but that they drive drunk. How many chances do we give them?" she asked, adding, "Violence in any form is unacceptable."

Det. Const. Carter also pointed out men are more likely to commit spousal abuse and that there are more men in jail for violent crimes than women.

When talking with high school kids, Det. Const. Carter notes she is surprised by some of the reactions.

"I see girls say 'that's abusive behaviour'?" she says. "They're not allowed to talk to their friends, their old boyfriends. They get hit talking to someone. The girls don't understand."

She notes one of the aims of an abuser is in isolating their partner. A boyfriend will drop them off and pick them up. Some aren't even allowed to talk with a male teacher.

"Not being allowed to talk to someone is wrong, absolutely wrong," Det. Const. Carter states.

The best prediction of abuse is "learned behaviour. It's learning in an environment of abuse.

"I'm not saying everyone who's abused will grow up to be an abuser. It's a choice. We're adults. I grew up in an abusive environment. I don't treat my boys that way or my partner."

Many people often question why women return to abusive homes.

"Well, 49 per cent of women are killed within two months of leaving," Det. Const. Carter says.

So, unless a woman is prepared to go into hiding, she's trapped.

"If she's involved with another partner, it escalates to 96 per cent," she says, "Leaving, just getting away from him, isn't enough.

Det. Const. Carter's abusive past helps her understand where the women are coming from and to recognize the behaviour of both the abuser and the abused. She says the hope for the new centre is to be "non-judgmental. We don't impose restrictions on the women. If they go back and then they come back to the shelter, we don't judge them."

Going back into a situation where there has been violence and there are children "there's fear and terror in their eyes," she says. "We don't judge the father. We tell the children his behaviour was wrong, don't lash out at people."

But, children coming from an abusive environment will eventually act out and it usually happens at school. If there's a problem in the schoolyard, the child shouldn't "lash out at people. They should walk way and get a teacher. You can't come to school with a weapon."