Toronto Star

Nov. 3, 02:00 EDT

`Kindness' of informants stoked Hadley's rage

Steady flow of dirt about his estranged wife preceded slaying

Jim Coyle
Toronto Star

CLICHÉS ARE discouraged in this business. But sometimes there's no way around them. With the kind of friends Ralph Hadley had, he hardly needed enemies.

Two Junes ago, on a warm morning in Pickering, the 34-year-old postal worker shot his estranged wife Gillian to death before turning the gun on himself.

Thanks to friends and family, Hadley had learned five months earlier of his wife's infidelity in the most traumatic way possible. Thanks to friends, family and workmates, his torment and pain, his humiliation and resentment seem to have been steadily fuelled over the months that followed.

As a coroner's jury has heard over the past two weeks, the families of Ralph and Gillian Hadley were unusually linked. The two had grown up across the street from each other in Scarborough. Their younger sisters were and remain "best friends." Even now, after the horror of June 20, 2000, their fathers go to the Hadley cottage together.

From his teens, Hadley had been smitten with Gillian. As a guest at her first wedding in 1987, he'd wept, knowing - as his sister-in-law said - that he'd "lost his chance."

But in 1996, Gillian and her first husband separated. She and Ralph soon got together. In short order, they were living together. By October, 1997, they were married.

Before long, however, the marriage was in trouble. Gillian had two children from her first marriage, including a disabled son, and in June, 1999, the Hadleys had a son of their own. In October that year, Gillian went back to work, on the night shift at an envelope company, the same place her sister Lisa and Lisa's husband, Brian Parish, worked.

One night that fall, Gillian and Lisa went to a bar and ended up going home with a couple of men. Gillian continued the relationship with the man she'd met. Lisa and Brian did not approve.

Brian Parish testified at the inquest this week. Even as a father of two, he seemed to talk and think in the ethos of high school. Gill "was being sneaky," he said. "And I didn't appreciate it.'' As if he were the wronged party, as if the Hadley marriage was his to set right.

On the morning of Jan. 7, 2000, after Brian, Lisa and Gillian had finished the night shift, it became apparent to the Parishes that Gillian was setting out for an assignation.

They tracked her down at one of their usual breakfast haunts. They watched Gillian and a girlfriend emerge from the diner and get into a car. They followed as the girlfriend dropped Gillian at the home of the man she'd met that night.

News seemed to travel fast in this family, bad news fastest of all, and the Parishes immediately returned to Ralph's house to tell him what they'd learned.

Brian Parish shook Ralph awake, passed on the news, then led Hadley to the Ajax home where Gillian was. Then, helpful souls, they left him to find what he would find.

Hadley entered the unlocked house, and the results could hardly have been more painful - as he detailed in a taped message he left behind.

"As I walked down the basement stairs, I knew what I was going to find," he said. "I had been with Gill long enough to know when she was in the thrills of ecstasy ... I walked over to the bedroom door and there was Clark on top of Gill."

When his wife emerged from the house Hadley slapped her. She had him charged with assault. Ralph moved back with his parents.

After a further harassment charge was laid in February that year, Hadley lived under virtual house arrest with his parents, forbidden from being in public unsupervised or communicating with Gill.

Somehow, the purpose of the court order - not to mention the emotional well-being of Hadley himself - seems to have been lost on family members.

As it turns out, Ralph and Gillian had bought their house in partnership with Hadley's cousin, who lived in the basement. This man eavesdropped on Gillian's phone calls, kept a log of her comings and goings, and reported back to Ralph.

The Parishes, though only 30ish, seem to have rather quaint attitudes about matrimonial matters. Lisa told the inquest she didn't think of a slap as assault. Brian said he believed Ralph had a right to know what was going on in a house he was paying for, even one he'd been ordered out of.

The couple would drive by Gillian's house, pass information about cars parked there back to Hadley. So, occasionally, did his sister, who along with his mother visited the matrimonial home to collect Ralph's son for visits.

It seems that Hadley, largely confined to his parents' house, little to occupy his mind but TV and video games and the stress of forthcoming court dates, swinging between periods of anger and depression, was fed by his relatives - under the guise of kindness - a steady diet of information that could have done little but torment him.

And this was hardly the worst of it.

According to Lisa Parish, Ralph Hadley's colleagues at the post office had their own suggested remedies to his marital woes. She heard him speak of his pals, how some were connected to biker gangs and could get him a gun any time he wanted.

"You know how many times I was offered a gun at the post office to kill them both," he apparently told her. "Now, in hindsight, I should have just done it."

According to what Brian Parish told police last February, Ralph's father Gerald had been as badly rocked by Gillian's affair as her husband.

It was not uncommon, Parish said, for him to visit the Hadley home and hear Ralph's father "joking'' - when the menfolk retreated to the basement - about how it would be best to "just f-----' kill the little bitch'' or how if a hit man were hired "to bump her off'' the family's worries would be over.

What Hadley was hearing, it seems, was a drumbeat of recommended violence, the suggestion that if he were any kind of man he would take revenge for his cuckolding.

No one but Ralph Hadley is responsible for what he did. But his nearest and dearest seem to have done much to make things worse, not better.

To her credit, Lisa Parish seemed this week to recognize it. Asked if, looking back, there was anything she would do differently, she replied: "Everything."

To the shock of the coroner's court, her husband seemed less seized by the gravity of what had occurred. Brian Parish told the inquest he couldn't remember having heard the remarks he told police Gerald Hadley had made. He stuck to this position even after the tape of the police interview was played.

How could he not recall, just months later, such shocking comments connected to the violent deaths of two family members, asked coroner's counsel Al O'Marra.

"S--- happens,'' Parrish said, smirking.

It certainly does.

Jim Coyle's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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