A Hamilton family has reached out to the Two Row Times in the hope that their daughter’s story could be heard. For over a month now, Danielle Heatley, 16 has been stalked, harassed and tormented by a man who she has never met before. Three times now the accused, a homeless man with no fixed address, has approached Heatley and harassed her and she has gone to the police who have so far refused to lay charges against him.
Over a month ago, 16-year-old Danielle Heatley was lured out of Sir John A McDonald School in Hamilton by a man claiming to be friends with her father. The man, known by at least two aliases, allegedly suffers from schizophrenia. He showed up at Heatley’s school on May 28 and told her that her father had an accident and she needed to go with him. Heatley left with the man, believing her father had indeed been injured. Heatley made it home safely a few hours later once she realized the man was not well. She was able to get to a phone where she called her father who came to pick her up.
“He showed up at my school and said my dad had been hurt on the escarpment. I panicked and phoned home and there was no answer so I thought it must be true and went with him. We didn’t have bus fare so we walked from Sir John A McDonald toward Glendale Golf Course. Around 6:00 pm I start walking to a bus stop and my dad came and got me. The police took him to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for a week,” explained Heatley.
Less then three weeks later, Heatley was walking up town in Hamilton when she noticed the same man approach her. “That happened on June 17, the same day as my year end feast at school. He followed me up town when I was walking with my friends. He seen me go to the police officer and he disappeared,” stated Heatley who said that the officer also told her he would not arrest the man. “The officer told me that he would have to reoffend before charges could be laid.”
A few weeks ago, during the annual Solidarity Day celebrations on June 21 & 22 at Gage Park, Heatley was enjoying the day with her friends when she noticed the same man again approach her. “I went to the sacred fire and sat with firekeepers. I told them what he did and there were 15-20 men from the community who escorted him out,” stated Heatley.
Heatley has approached Lynden George, Aboriginal Justice Coordinator with Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, in an attempt to find some answers as to why police refuse to lay charges. “I help Aboriginal people in matters that are not criminal. But this is a criminal matter. There are two issues here: one is with the police and the other is with the school. I am having meetings with the police to find out why they are not pursuing charges and with the Board of Education in upcoming weeks where I will have full details and disclosure. I already talked to David on the phone with his daughter. I basically know nothing at this point but it is serious and we do know he should have never been able to walk out of the school with her. The school should have taken more responsibility,” stated George.
Heatley is all too familiar with this situation. She is currently working with a group in Hamilton to raise awareness on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. According to George, “Danielle is extremely admired and respected in the native community in Hamilton. She raises much awareness on the critical situation of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”
Last week Heatley received a phone call from two detectives from the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) who contacted her to let her know they will be investigating the case. According to Acting Media Officer, P.C. Claus Wagner, “The report at this time is being investigated, however as you know the male is homeless and not easy to locate. The behaviour at this time has not been enough to bring criminal charges.”
But when Heatley attended the HPS – East End division to provide a statement, she was instead interrogated and told she was allegedly having a sexual relationship with the man. “Instead of being treated as the victim, I left the police station feeling like the perpetrator. Both detectives took turns questioning me. They questioned me about how I knew the man. I told them I never met the guy before in my life and it seemed like they didn’t believe me. They were very rude. Once one detective left the room, another one came in and asked all the same questions. They said there was an inconsistency in my story. Then both detectives were in the room and I had to tell them the whole story again. One detective told me he thought I was lying and he said I was probably having a sexual relationship with the man and that I was trying to keep it a secret from my dad. After he said that, I started to cry and I didn’t understand why they didn’t believe me. They said they want me to take a lie detector test now to see if I’m telling the truth or not.”
HPS Media Relations Officer, Constable Debbie McGreal-Dinning told Two Row Times in a statement, “The Hamilton Police Service continues to investigate these matters guided by the evidence that is presented and subject to any criminal charges that may be considered. The Hamilton Police take any incident of stalking or harassment seriously and investigate matters of this nature thoroughly. Criminal charges are laid in such cases when there are reasonable grounds to do so. The investigation is not concluded at this time. Division Two Detectives continue to investigate.”
**UPDATE** The school that Miss Heatley attended and where a man allegedly lured her from, has been found of no wrongdoing as Heatley left on her own volition and apparently left through a side door. The school stated that if Miss Heatley had left through the main doors, she would have never been allowed to leave but the second time the man came back to her school, she left through a side door at the school and left willingly but under the assumption that her father had been seriously hurt, which the man had told her.