Toronto Star

Nov. 1, 02:00 EDT

Couple's families worried about marriage, inquest told

Child's birth not enough to heal rift, mother says

Nicholas Keung
Toronto Star

WEDDED BLISS?: Gillian and Ralph Hadley are shown on their wedding day in October, 1997.

The families of Gillian and Ralph Hadley foresaw problems between the two even before they got married in October, 1997, an inquest has heard.

"I had mixed feeling about their marriage, knowing that she was going through a divorce and had problems with her ex-husband," Ralph's mother, Christina Hadley, testified yesterday at the inquest into the couple's June 20, 2000, murder-suicide.

"I was concerned that Ralph was taking on a bigger responsibility than just a woman with two children."

Financial problems for the couple first emerged when they moved in together at their Hillcrest Rd. house in Pickering in June, 1997, she said.

Gillian would issue non-cashable cheques and spend the money in the bank set aside for bill payments, Hadley noted, adding that she and her husband Gerald had to remortgage their Scarborough home to help their son.

The couple's relationship was further strained when Ralph was charged by police in April, 1999, with criminal negligence causing bodily harm to the severely disabled son from Gillian's first marriage.

Both Gillian and Ralph's families did not think the marriage would last, she said.

"It was a young marriage," Hadley told coroner Dr. Bonita Porter and the five-member jury.

Hadley said both her son and daughter-in-law had expressed their intent to stay together with the birth of Chase, the only child they shared biologically, in the summer of 1999.

But by Christmas of that year, "there was very obviously a rift between Gillian and Ralph," she said.

The turning point in their marriage was Jan. 7, 2000, when Ralph discovered his wife having sex with another man and "slapped" her at her secret lover's house.

Ralph was charged with assault and put under a restraining order to stay away from both Gillian and Chase.

"He seemed very hurt. He felt betrayed," Christina Hadley said. "The blame was Gill's as far as he's concerned."

Ralph's frustration built as he had to deal with the children's aid society concerning his alleged assault on Gillian's son, the justice system on the domestic abuse charge, the financial burden from all his legal expenses and a crumbling marriage, his mother said.

"He felt things that happened to him were very biased.... He didn't feel there's light at the end of the tunnel," Hadley said. "Doors had closed and closed and closed, and the tunnel's getting darker and darker."

But she was delighted when he suddenly became calm in the two weeks leading to his and Gillian's deaths.

"My feeling was: `Gee, it's finally happened that he had come to grips with it,'" Hadley recalled. "But in hindsight, he was (actually) at the bottom, that he had probably made a decision and that's why ... he was gone, he wasn't there."

Ralph's first and last Father's Day with Chase was very emotional and he couldn't stop crying when the two parted at the end of the supervised visit at his mother's house, she said.

Two days later, on June 20, 2000, Ralph sneaked into Gillian's home and shot her before taking his own life.

"We have no son. It was very difficult," Hadley said, choking back tears. "There are times when you can just get on with things; there are times it's very difficult. Anybody who has lost a child would know."

The inquest continues today.

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