Toronto Sun

Thursday, November 8, 2001

Cop tried her best to help out Gillian


Should I ever find myself in the unspeakable spot where I am imprisoned in my own home -- scared to stay and too paralytic to leave -- I hope they send someone like Cheryl Carter to my door.

The pretty, competent Durham constable was on the witness stand yesterday at the inquest probing Gillian Hadley's death. Where others had looked and didn't see -- or, in Gillian's own case, simply didn't want to see -- Carter saw quite clearly.

She saw that Ralph Hadley was a man on a mission and that, if no one intervened, the blonde-haired recent bride was going to be killed by her now-estranged husband. (Thanks, in part, to the Greek chorus of idiots who were egging him on.)

What Cheryl Carter saw is that Ralph was escalating in his behaviour towards Gillian. While she knew that past behaviour is often the best predictor of future acts (and Ralph was already facing charges of assault), the other predictor is a change in pace. As time went by, Ralph's harassment was increasing, not decreasing, and was building towards a conclusion where Ralph could once again claim dominance over his recalcitrant wife.

How Carter even came to be in Gillian's kitchen on the morning of Feb. 23 is a testament to her own policing instincts.

On the previous day, she had noted a "936 phone calls" on the list of policing items requiring attention. Phone calls such as these were given a "D" priority, the lowest level. "About the same as you would give a barking dog, is that correct?" asked coroner's counsel Al O'Marra. "Yes," Carter agreed.

The priority rating meant that nobody got around to checking on Gillian Hadley that day and since she hadn't answered her phone, when Carter reported for duty the next day, she took it upon herself to ask if she could make the Hadley affair her business.

"I felt that it should be addressed because it had been on the screen so long."

Once at the house, she found a painfully thin, chain-smoking Gillian Hadley who "appeared ... more annoyed than concerned for her safety." Hadley had been keeping a list of the phone calls that Ralph had been making to the house, despite the fact that he was under a court order to leave her alone.

There had been many of them, mostly requests for face-to-face meetings with Gillian. However, as time had gone on, it became apparent that Hadley was getting frustrated with her lack of cooperation.

"If you think what I did to Michael was bad, wait until you see what I do to you if you don't smarten up," Carter testified one message went. (Michael is Gillian's severely disabled son who was assaulted and bruised by Ralph.)

By the end of the interview, Carter had heard enough. When Gillian insisted that "he would never, ever, really hurt her, that he wasn't like that," Carter decided to be blunt.

"I believe he would kill you," she told Gillian as she prepared to lay criminal harassment charges for the phone calls and the stalking. Ralph Hadley was to also face charges for breaching a peace bond (for the attack on Michael) and breach of recognizance (for an earlier assault on Gillian).

Cheryl Carter was so convinced that Ralph was a genuine threat that she made a special notation on the papers which would go to court. In it, she argued vehemently against granting Ralph any further bail.

"If released, the police feel he will absolutely re-offend, possibly with dire consequences given his past behaviour, his obsession with the victim and his medicalization for his depression."

Nobody listened to what Const. Carter had to say. Ralph Hadley got bail and, on the morning of June 20, shot and killed Gillian before turning the gun on himself.

Yesterday, Cheryl Carter lost her composure when asked what she thought when she learned there was an incident at the Hadley address. "I feared the absolute worst." Then she started to cry.

These days, Carter has been seconded to the board of a new women's shelter the community wants to build in Ajax-Pickering. There has been some talk about naming the new centre after Gillian Hadley, but the officer has voiced opposition.

"I'm not amenable to it," she said in a brief conversation after court yesterday.

"I think it takes away hope."

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.