Toronto Star

Nov. 2, 02:00 EDT

Hadley's sister feared the worst

At first thought phone call was a false alarm

Nicholas Keung
Toronto Star

Lisa Parish told the inquest she reported on the actions of her half-sister, Gillian Hadley, to Ralph Hadley.
RALPH HADLEY: Stress from end of marriage became too much, inquest told.
Heather Hadley-Schofield thought it was another false alarm when she was called by an acquaintance on June 20, 2000, and told that her brother Ralph Hadley broke a restraining order and stalked his estranged wife Gillian, an inquest has heard.

She ran to her parents' Quantrell Trail home in Scarborough, where Ralph was ordered to stay under their supervision, to warn him of another allegation against him by Gillian, Hadley-Schofield testified yesterday at the inquest into the couple's murder-suicide.

"I ran upstairs to the bedroom. When I looked at the bed," she paused, before breaking down in tears, "I really thought he was there. When I looked over and pulled (the blanket) over, it was teddy bears all over."

She knew then that "something horrible had happened."

Hadley-Schofield, along with her father Gerald, drove to Gillian's Pickering home. Once there, they were told by police that Ralph had shot Gillian and taken his own life.

She testified that she understood her brother was under a lot of stress due to his crumbling marriage and his concern for the welfare of Chase, the couple's child. But she never thought Ralph would turn a gun on himself and Gillian as a way out.

"I could see him going into depression. I could see things piled up against him and feel the pain he was feeling," Hadley-Schofield recalled.

She was so worried about Ralph that she even confronted him in April about whether he was contemplating suicide, but was satisfied when he told her, "No, that's not worth it."

The final straw for Ralph came with the visitation arrangements for Chase's first birthday on June 24, four days before the pair's tragic deaths. Ralph was upset that Gillian told him he couldn't have their son that day, Hadley-Schofield testified.

Except for her mother Deanna MacLean, who has Alzheimer's disease, Gillian had been rejected by her and Ralph's families when they found out she was having an affair, the inquest was told.

Members of both families started spying on Gillian and feeding Ralph information on her movements, thinking they were helping him cope with the crisis, the inquest heard.

"I feel terrible," Gillian's half-sister, Lisa Parish, testified. "We were just trying to help him. He had lost his house, his wife and his kid."

Lisa and her husband Brian Parish led Ralph to the home of Gillian's secret lover on Jan. 7, 2000, and caught them having sex. Ralph slapped Gillian and was later charged with assault by police. He was also placed under a restraining order.

While Ralph was loud and might seem at times to be screaming, Lisa Parish said, he was a "sweetheart" and "Gillian was the queen in his eyes."

"I can understand why Ralph did what he did (by slapping Gillian), but I don't think she should have called the cops," she told coroner Dr. Bonita Porter and the five-member jury. She added that Gillian's ex-husband and her best friend came up with the idea of having the charge laid.

From that point, Parish said, Gillian became more remote from the couple's families, who have been and still are close friends since moving to the same Scarborough neighbourhood in 1975.

"Her kids and my mom were always the most important things in Gill's life. I think it wasn't there any more," explained Parish, who shares joint custody of Chase with Hadley-Schofield.

Fearing he would go to jail for the assault charge against Gillian, Parish said Ralph once told her that "if he's going to spend time in jail, he better make it worthwhile."

But she didn't take him seriously or report his death threat to the police because "if he was going to hurt anyone, it would be himself."

Asked by coroner's counsel Lori Hamilton what she would have done differently in the situation, Parish replied, "Everything."

The inquest is adjourned until Monday.

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