Toronto Star

Jan. 9, 01:00 EDT

Hadley `snapped' from stress, MD says

Peter Small
Toronto Star

Although Ralph Hadley's murder of his wife appeared to be well planned, it was likely the result of him snapping under accumulated stresses a few weeks earlier, a psychiatrist told an inquest into the Pickering murder-suicide yesterday.

"I think the snapping or major change occurred about two or three weeks before the murder," testified Dr. Harold Merskey, a practising psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario.

"It was the result of cumulative stresses," he told Walter Fox, lawyer for Fathers Are Capable Too, who had called him to testify.

On June 20, 2000, Hadley, 34, broke into the Pickering home he had once shared with his 35-year-old wife Gillian. He shot her in the head with an illicit handgun before killing himself.

Merskey's testimony contradicts an earlier witness, Dr. Peter Collins, a forensic psychiatrist working with the Ontario Provincial Police, who testified last month that he did not believe that people just snap.

But Merskey testified that Hadley's stress build-up started with his arrest and charge more than a year earlier for criminal negligence causing bodily harm to his disabled stepson, and was fuelled by many problems, including the "betrayal by his wife.''

Hadley caught Gillian in bed with another man on Jan. 7, 2000, and then assaulted her, evidence has shown.

Collins had said he did not feel Hadley had any psychiatric illness or was really depressed, despite a diagnosis by his family doctor that he was.

Merskey testified yesterday he agreed with the diagnosis of Hadley's long-time family doctor, Dr. Mark Milgram, who had prescribed him the anti-depressant Celexa, for what he called clinical depression. Merskey said the drug was "a good choice."

Asked by Fox whether one can assign criminal responsibility to Hadley for the murder, Merskey told the inquest jury, "I don't think that on the evidence that is available ... we can ever know the answer," adding that "he may have been deluded."

At that point coroner's counsel Al O'Marra asked the five jurors be ordered to leave to court. When they returned, presiding coroner Dr. Bonita Porter instructed them to disregard the remarks.

In cross-examining Merskey, O'Marra suggested that Hadley's plans to kill Gillian were deliberate, as they included a written list of steps, and a taped last testament.

Merskey testified that Hadley hadn't snapped at that moment.

Merskey said that while he had read several documents related to the murder-suicide, he had not read the six-volume coroner's brief. Collins had testified he had read those briefs before forming his opinions.

The inquest continues Monday.

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