Globe and Mail

Accused's suicide threats ignored by her family

Pleas were not taken seriously, jurors told in trial over killing of undercover police officer

JANE GADD, Courts Reporter
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, October 28, 1999

Toronto -- Elaine Rose Cece and Mary Barbara Taylor made several desperate pleas for help with their suicidal crisis on the day they ended up killing an undercover police officer.

But their cries fell on deaf ears, the jury at their second-degree murder trial heard yesterday.

The women spent two hours at Scarborough Centenary Hospital trying to gain admission to the psychiatric ward, but stormed out when a doctor told them they couldn't stay together.

They then made calls from a pay phone to five of Ms. Taylor's relatives to say goodbye because they were going to kill themselves, but were not taken seriously.

One uncle and one aunt refused to come to the phone. Another aunt listened to them for 10 minutes, then returned to a party.

Ms. Taylor's sister, Kim Corneau, yelled at her and called her "an idiot" before cutting off the conversation less than an hour before the women's fatal confrontation with Constable William Hancox.

Ms. Taylor's cousin, Samantha Clarke, told her to call someone else.

One family member after another testified yesterday that Ms. Taylor had telephoned between 7 and 9 p.m. on Aug. 4, 1998, saying that nobody loved her, she couldn't bear her life any more and she and Ms. Cece were going to end it all.

Ms. Corneau told the court yesterday that she wasn't worried.

"I didn't think my sister would do that," she said. "She seemed to be a sympathy-getter."

Ms. Corneau said she called her sister names, including "an idiot" and told her "God wouldn't take kindly" to suicide.

Sometime in the next hour, Ms. Cece and Ms. Taylor came up with a plan to seize a car by using a stolen knife to threaten the driver, then drive to Northern Ontario to Ms. Cece's family.

At 10 p.m., they stabbed Constable Hancox in his van after failing to lure him away from it.

Dr. Michael Byrnes, the psychiatrist on duty at Centenary's crisis unit that day, testified that he never managed to assess Ms. Cece.Hospital employees who saw both women have testified Ms. Cece was unable to speak or walk straight and looked in far worse shape than Ms. Taylor. But it was Ms. Taylor who got in to see the psychiatrist first.

Dr. Byrnes interviewed her for 25 minutes and concluded she was depressed and abusing crack cocaine. While he thought her condition was severe enough to admit her to the hospital, he didn't think it was bad enough to use force.

He described the legal requirement for issuing a Form 1, or involuntary committal certificate.

"The person has a psychiatric problem that puts them at risk of physical harm or puts someone else at such a risk, or [makes them] incompetent to look after themself."

In any case, Ms. Taylor initially agreed to be admitted as a voluntary patient, he said. He told her that he would assess Ms. Cece and that she might be admitted, too.

But moments later, with Ms. Taylor back in the waiting area with Ms. Cece, Dr. Byrnes was reminded by a nurse that it was not hospital practice to admit two people who are closely related at the same time.

He then told the women they would have to make "other arrangements," perhaps sending Ms. Cece to another hospital.

Ms. Taylor became enraged, and shouted "that won't happen," he said.

The pair gathered up their bulging shopping bags and left. On her way past the nursing station, Ms. Taylor made an obscene gesture and yelled "You f---ing bitches" and "You'll read about us in the papers," a nurse testified.

Ms. Taylor was still shouting as they waited for the elevator, while Ms. Cece stood silently, banging her head against the wall.

Nurse Ann Robinson testified it was not unusual for patients to leave the unit unhappy or angry. She said the unit routinely separates families and couples receiving in-patient treatment because they affect one another's behaviour.

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