Toronto Star

Nov. 30, 02:10 EDT

Stepdaughter feared Hadley

7-year-old didn't want to see him, inquest hears

Peter Small
Staff Reporter
Toronto Star

Ralph Hadley's 7-year-old stepdaughter Faith was afraid of him and didn't want to see him again after he assaulted her mother, an inquest into the Pickering couple's murder-suicide has heard.

"She was afraid of Ralph yelling; she was just afraid," testified Ian DeGeer, a former Durham Children's Aid Society family service worker who dealt with Ralph and Gillian Hadley and their children on and off between 1997 and 2000.

"I said, `Would you like to see Ralph?'" DeGeer said yesterday. "She said no. She said she was afraid of him."

Faith told DeGeer the couple argued about a peace bond that Ralph signed on Dec. 15, 1999, DeGeer said. Ralph had agreed to the bond, despite Gillian's objections, in return for the crown withdrawing charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm to Mikey, Gillian's profoundly disabled 6-year-old son from her first marriage.

After Ralph's Jan. 7 assault on Gillian, DeGeer said he began to learn more from her about how she, too, had been afraid of him over the previous six months and about how he had shoved her on several occasions.

In the months following the assault and Ralph's moving out of the home, "it seemed like she was forever having to defend herself to me," DeGeer said.

Ralph's cousin, living in the basement apartment of the Pickering home that he, Gillian and Ralph co-owned, wouldn't let her downstairs, denying her access to the washer and dryer, DeGeer said.

Gillian suspected Ralph of trying to break into the house, so she had the locks changed. She decided, given the circumstances, it would be best for her disabled son to live full-time with her first husband. That decision "was huge," DeGeer said.

"She went through a whole ton of stuff."

But DeGeer said Gillian never bad-mouthed Ralph, although he continually criticized her, calling her unfaithful and a bad mother.

Ralph informed children's aid when he learned his estranged wife had occasionally left her children in the care of her mother, who had Alzheimer's disease. DeGeer testified that he put a stop to her babysitting.

Ralph also rationalized his assault slapping Gillian and hitting her head against a wall because he had caught her in bed with another man, DeGeer told coroner's counsel Lori Hamilton.

After the assault, Ralph stalked Gillian and repeatedly phoned her, breaching a court order and leading to his being charged in late February with criminal harassment.

Ralph didn't have an anger problem with anyone but Gillian, DeGeer said. But in February, when Durham police Constable Cheryl Carter informed DeGeer of her grave worries about Gillian's safety, "it was the first time I had heard someone say, `He is going to kill her.' I didn't necessarily believe it right away."

As he learned more about Ralph, he struggled to get him into New Choices, a men's peer support group DeGeer thought would really benefit him.

But the program is normally only available through the criminal court system, and Ralph hadn't yet been convicted of anything.

DeGeer said he "firmly believes" things would be different had Ralph enrolled in New Choices.

DeGeer, who now works in Vancouver, said he was horrified after learning Ralph had shot Gillian in June, 2000.

"It was one of those things you didn't see coming," he said. "It just didn't make a lot of sense."

The inquest continues today.

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