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18th of January 2018

International



MANDEL: The evil we did not see

It was a horror story that played out in the midst of an unseeing city: a man who for 25 years not only beat an intellectually challenged man, but stole his child and raised him as his own.

But at last, Gary Willett, 50, has been found guilty for his shocking mistreatment of Tim Goldrick, an illiterate and formerly homeless man whose monthly disability cheque and terrified servitude was taken as Willett’s right for more than two decades.

After years of abuse, though, Willett’s meal ticket had summoned the courage to turn on his former master and finally have his voice heard. And supporting him along the way has been the son he could never before acknowledge was his.

Tim Goldrick arrives at the courthouse at 361 University on Friday January 12, 2018.

Willett showed no emotion as Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon convicted him of abducting Goldrick’s child, assaulting him and stealing $48,000 of his ODSP money over 20 years. The judge acquitted him on charges of unlawful confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life, saying there was no evidence Goldrick was ever physically confined and prevented from leaving the home he shared with Willett and his wife Maria until 2012.

Yet there’s little doubt he was their psychological prisoner.

“They exploited his intelligence,” McMahon said. “They took advantage of a very simple man.”

Maria Willett, who has pleaded not guilty to similar charges, is slated for a separate trial in the fall.

In 2014, two years after Goldrick finally broke free, he went to Toronto Police with an alarming tale: his former partner Barbara Bennett had been forced to give birth to their child using Maria Willett’s health card and their baby had then been taken by their landlords and named Gary Willett Jr.

Gary Willett Jr. leaves the courthouse at 361 University on Friday January 12, 2018.

Goldrick, 56, said he had no choice but to watch his son being raised by the couple because they routinely beat him, took his money, forced him to do their menial tasks and errands, and threatened him with a mental hospital if he didn’t comply.

Goldrick remains so terrified of Willett that he was allowed to testify at his trial from behind a screen.

Willett denied all his claims, insisting he’d never hurt his former tenant or touched his disability money. As for Gary Willett Jr., he maintained that it was Goldrick and Bennett who asked them to raise him because a child would “cramp” their lives.

Willett said he then felt obligated to take in Goldrick and if he was eating dog food and wearing rags, it was because he spent his all his disability money on drugs and alcohol.

McMahon didn’t believe any of it.

If the baby had been taken with consent, then why didn’t the Willetts go through the proper channels as they were doing at the time to adopt two other children? Instead, McMahon said, Gary Willett Jr. was taken in a “cloud of secrecy and fraud” and only learned of his real parentage in 2012.

A DNA test in 2015 confirmed Goldrick is his father. 

It didn’t help Willett’s credibility, the judge said, that when first approached by the police, he continued to lie and insist he was the biological father.

Nor did the judge believe Willett left Goldrick with about $200 a month after he paid him for room and board from his disability cheque. If he had that money, he would not be rummaging in garbage bins, stealing food from the freezer and eating bird seed and dog food.

“Clearly the accused has taken advantage of a person with limited intelligence,” McMahon said.

The judge also accepted Goldrick’s evidence that Willett had ordered him around, yelled at him, slapped, punched and kicked him, but that his injuries weren’t serious.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March.

Gary Willett leaves the courthouse at 361 University on Friday, January 12, 2018.

Goldrick and his son said they were disappointed Willett hadn’t been convicted on all counts. This was a man who stole a child who was not his own, depriving them both of years they can never get back.

“I think he should be incarcerated right now for all the things that he’s done,” said Gary Willett Jr. “Not against me, I don’t care about what he’s done to me but what he’s done to Tim.”

“It’s weird the fact that all of a sudden I find out he’s my dad. But I’m getting used to it,” he added.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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