Toronto Star

Nov. 13, 02:00 EDT

Victim taken off priority list

Gillian Hadley also rejected advice, probe told

Peter Small
STAFF REPORTER
Toronto Star

In the months before Gillian Hadley was murdered by her estranged husband in the Pickering home where she felt unsafe, she had been thrown off the subsidized housing priority list due to a bureaucratic misunderstanding, an inquest jury has been told.

Denise Hannivan, an assistant co-ordinator with the Victim Witness Assistance Program, which is funded by the attorney-general's ministry, testified yesterday that when she phoned on June 2, 2000, to check on Gillian's housing situation, she was told by a worker that the mother of three had been removed from the "priority" list and put on a less urgent "safety priority" list.

It was the first that the specialist in helping victims of domestic violence had heard that Durham's Housing Access Centre made such a distinction. Hannivan testified that she was under the impression that Gillian had been at the top-priority level since March.

"There seemed to be a misunderstanding," she told coroner's counsel Lori Hamilton.

Hannivan told housing access centre lawyer Peter Pliszka that she had not been aware that, to secure a victim's priority, the centre had a new policy requiring independent verification that the individual had been separated from her spouse within 90 days of the abuse.

Eighteen days after the miscommunication was straightened out, Ralph Hadley climbed through a bedroom window of the couple's former matrimonial home on Hillcrest Rd. and shot Gillian in the head. Moments later, he took his own life.

Hannivan said Gillian Hadley had told her that Ralph had often verbally abused her in public, and thrown and shoved her, but had never hit her before Jan. 7 of that year.

She testified that she advised Gillian to get out of the home.

But Gillian didn't want to go to a women's shelter for three reasons: There wasn't a shelter near her home; and she was afraid of losing her financial interest in the house, and that a shelter couldn't cope with her severely disabled son Michael, Hannivan said.

Durham Region police Constable Maria Iannuzziello testified Gillian had reported an attempted break-in on Jan. 22.

Someone had put a key in the lock of her door weeks after Ralph had moved out. Luckily, a chain foiled the culprit's entry. "She thought it was Ralph," Iannuzziello said.

Gillian was also sure that Ralph had driven by the house five times, the officer said, but that wasn't forbidden by his bail conditions, which did not specify that he be kept outside a certain radius.

After Gillian was killed, Iannuzziello then part of the police victim support unit went to comfort the woman's first husband, Michael Ferraz father to Michael and their 8-year-old daughter Faith.

Faith had not been told how her mother had been killed. But as Iannuzziello was leaving, she asked the little girl if there was anything she wanted to know.

"The daughter said, `I want to know when and how Ralph killed my mother,'" Iannuzziello testified. Ferraz intervened to tell his daughter: "We don't know all the answers now, honey, and when we do, we'll tell you."

The inquest resumes today, with lawyers making arguments about certain evidence without the jury present.

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