Toronto Star

Jan. 18, 01:00 EDT

Hadley showed all the signs of `lethality'

Murder-suicide was predictable, expert says

Peter Small
Toronto Star

Ralph Hadley showed classic signs of "lethality" towards his estranged wife, Gillian, and stronger steps should have been taken to protect her, an expert on women's homicides told an inquest into the Pickering couple's murder-suicide.

"Ralph Hadley should have been detained when there was a perceived threat," Myrna Dawson testified yesterday. Dawson is a sociologist attached to York University and the University of Western Ontario and an authority on "intimate femicide."

Durham Region police Constable Cheryl Carter warned in a pre-bail hearing report in February, 2000, that Ralph Hadley, 34, was "absolutely" likely to reoffend, "possibly with dire consequences," Dawson noted.

Hadley was seeking bail after he had been charged with criminally harassing Gillian, 35, and breaching orders to keep the peace and stay away from her. The month before, he was charged with assaulting her.

Considering such warning signs, "there should have been emergency safety measures" taken to protect Gillian, Dawson told Geri Sanson, lawyer for the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.

But the assistant crown attorney at the Feb. 28, 2000, bail hearing, Frank Giordano, has told the inquest that he thought the police officer's opinion had no "evidentiary value."

Ralph Hadley was granted bail on what Giordano considered to be stringent conditions involving virtual house arrest at his mother's home.

But on June 20, 2000, he broke into his former matrimonial home and shot Gillian and then himself in the head.

As is common when men commit suicide after killing their partners, the murder was premeditated, Dawson noted.

The inquest has heard from several lawyers, a doctor, counsellors and children's aid workers who dealt with the Hadleys but said they had no inkling of the coming murder.

Dawson testified that "these acts are not unpredictable," and that "if there is an element of predictability, there has to be a method of prevention."

Endangered women need protection that is "swift and focused, because the act (of murder) will be swift and focused."

Between 1974 and 1994, 1,206 women 15 and older were slain in Ontario, according to research Dawson co-authored. Of the 1,120 solved cases, 63 per cent were at the hands of current or former spouses or boyfriends. Over a 21-year period, on average, 34 Ontario women a year were victims of intimate femicide.

Among the risk factors that clearly pointed to Ralph's lethality was the couple's estrangement, she said, a common factor in such cases. The killer's sense of "proprietariness" or sexual jealousy about the woman is central, she said.

Enraged at finding Gillian in bed with another man on Jan. 7, Ralph slapped her and smashed her head against a wall. He was then ordered by police to leave their home.

Prior violence toward the woman is another risk factor, present in more than half of intimate femicides, Dawson said.

Hadley's repeated violation of judicial orders "was also a red flag," signalling an ominous disregard for the law, Dawson testified.

Another risk factor that has emerged from research is the presence of stepchildren, she said. Two of Gillian's children were from a previous marriage.

The inquest resumes Thursday, when lawyers present their suggested recommendations to the coroner's jury.

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