Tisdale murder-suicide reopens wounds for Wilcock family

The quadruple homicide in Tisdale, Sask., a week ago has prompted Hayley Wourms's parents to break their silence on the 2012 murder-suicide that claimed the lives of their daughter and grandson — and their son-in-law, the killer.

'You want your worst nightmare? Come live our life': father of Hayley Wourms, murder-suicide victim

Les and Melanie Wilcock spoke to CBC about their grief over a murder-suicide in 2012 that claimed the lives of their daughter, Hayley Wourms, and grandson Cayden in 2012 outside St. Walburg, Sask. Their son-in-law also killed himself. (Submitted to CBC)
Hayley Wourms, with her son, Cayden, had strength and dedication to her husband and family that ultimately made her vulnerable, the Saskatchewan woman's parents say. (Submitted to CBC)
The quadruple homicide in Tisdale, Sask., a week ago has prompted the parents of Hayley Wourms to break their silence on the 2012 murder-suicide that claimed the lives of their daughter and grandson — and their son-in-law, the killer.

Les and Melanie Wilcock don't sugarcoat the past three years.

"It's been hell," Les Wilcock told CBC News in an interview from their home in Assiniboia, Sask. "You want your worst nightmare? Come live our life."

On May 27, 2012, the couple's son-in-law, Darren Wourms, 26, shot their daughter, Hayley Wourms, 23, and two-year old grandson, Cayden, and then himself, just outside St. Walburg, Sask.

The Wilcocks have never spoken to the media, until now, and only decided to share their story publicly after the murder-suicide in Tisdale last week claimed the life of another young mother and her three children.

Like the murder-suicide that claimed Hayley Wourms's life, mental illness has become a focal point of coverage in the Tisdale incident.

Hayley Wourms was 23 years old and her son, Cayden, was two at the time of their death in 2012. (Submitted to CBC)

Melanie Wilcock finds that frustrating, saying many murder-suicides are too easily chalked up as being due to mental illness. She said such conclusions are often based on speculation and may overlook other factors, including indicators of violence in a home.

"There's been no focus on domestic violence and abuse."

In the Tisdale case, the family of Steven O'Shaughnessy, accused in the quadruple homicide, released a statement three days after the killings that revealed the man had struggled with mental-health issues, but had no history of violence. Several of Latasha Gosling's friends described O'Shaughnessy as controlling and jealous, but didn't believe Gosling was afraid of him.

In the case of Darren Wourms, there is more evidence of escalating mental illness and threats of violence, although most of it only became public after the incident.

The Wilcocks say that, in some ways, it was their daughter's strength and dedication to her husband and family that ultimately made her most vulnerable.

"She would try to make it work, no matter what happened," her father said.

More evidence of Darren Wourms's escalating mental illness and threats of violence became public after he took the lives of his wife and child, and then himself. (Submitted to CBC)
Even as a toddler, Hayley Wourms was stubborn and independent, he recalled, sharing anecdotes of a feisty little girl who would refuse help from her parents to even do up a jacket zipper.

"Her favourite saying was 'Me do,'" Les Wilcock said with both pride and remorse.

She was also comfortable taking on leadership roles. Hayley Wourms was valedictorian and captain of the cheerleading team at her high school and, later, she founded and was the charter president of the U of S Campus Kin Club at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

She was scared and trying to hold it together.- Les Wilcock

So, the Wilcocks believe, when faced with a husband who was becoming increasingly unstable, their daughter was determined to handle it herself and keep it private.

"I have no doubt she was scared and trying to hold it together," Les Wilcock said. "She thought she was the one who could fix it."

A month before Darren Wourms killed his wife and their child, he threatened to kill the entire family, according to both the Wourms and Wilcocks. That incident prompted a call to 911 and an RCMP intervention. Wourms was admitted to hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He was prescribed medication and released.

Despite the threat, Hayley stayed with him and didn't tell her parents.

That isn't uncommon, according to Jen Renwick, a Family Service Regina case worker. Women can feel compelled to stay in an unsafe situation because they feel guilty abandoning a loved one with a mental illness, despite threats or acts of violence or self harm.

"Often, it's a threat of suicide," she said.

Get out! You cannot help anybody if you're dead.- Melanie Wilcock

Melanie Wilcock has blunt advice for anyone staying in a dangerous relationship.

"Get out! You cannot help anybody if you're dead," she said.

About a year ago, the Wilcocks raised nearly $20,000 for a women's shelter in Moose Jaw through a Mother's Day run in Assiniboia, Sask., dedicated to Hayley Wourms and her child.

They say that gives them some comfort, knowing a safe place will be there for someone who is trying to leave a relationship and doesn't know where to go.

Support at bereavement centre

The couple also makes a monthly two-hour drive to Regina, from their Assiniboia home, to be part of the Homicide Loss Support Group at Greystone Bereavement Centre.

One of the group facilitators, Lois Isnana, whose husband was beaten to death, says that grieving a victim of homicide presents its own unique challenges.

"You feel totally violated," Isnana said. "We have to focus on how they died."

The Wilcocks have also discovered a haunting parallel between their need for support today and how their daughter needed help before she died.

"You take every ounce of support from your friends and family, and from your community," Melanie Wilcock said. "Do not try to go through this alone."

About the Author

Bonnie Allen

Senior Reporter

Bonnie Allen is a senior reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. Before returning to Canada in 2013, Allen spent four years reporting from across Africa, including Libya, South Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. She holds a master's in international human rights law from the University of Oxford. @bonnieallenCBC

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger


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