'A living horror': The tales of two abused women — and how one survived


December 20, 2014


Derek Jones almost ran back outside when he saw the state of his sister’s house.

The warm home he had once helped brighten with a fresh coat of paint felt dim and cold. Holes and punch marks scarred the walls. Windows were broken, doors battered. Tape used for crime scene photos still clung to surfaces.

“It almost seemed like every door she tried to hide behind, he kicked open,” Derek says. He pauses, remembering. “A living horror.”

It was five years ago this month that Derek’s sister, Donna Jones, 33, was found dead in the basement of her west-end Ottawa home, sparking an investigation into what would become known as one of Canada’s most horrific cases of domestic abuse. Her husband, Mark Hutt, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The story is chilling, yet many of its elements are seen over and over: A man who begins as doting and affectionate, slowing descending into a pattern of control and abuse, preying on his partner’s insecurities.

Ottawa police investigated what they say are 4,973 cases of “founded” partner assault from 2009 to 2013. There were 4,005 charges laid as a result, the huge majority against men.

But despite these cases, despite the campaigns to build shelters and change attitudes, police believe much more partner assault remains unreported.

In the first part of a special series on domestic abuse, the Citizen looks at those who suffer in silence.

The presence of abuse is difficult for many women to admit when so much is on the line — their relationship, their financial stability, the future of their children and even their pets.

Women often live in quiet desperation rather than leave, says Staff Sgt. Isobel Granger, who heads the Ottawa police partner assault unit. Abusers, she says, may use “emotional extortion” to force a partner to stay.

“What is it that she cares about the most? That’s where I’m going to nail her.”

Still, many women do leave. While Jones’s story ended with her death, others emerge from the darkness, to survive and to thrive.


For Anne, 41, the tale of Donna Jones was a dark glimpse of what her own fate might have been.

Anne didn’t want her last name or occupation used for this series. A decade after leaving her ex-husband, the Ottawa woman still fears for her safety.

She recalls vividly the day she gave his handgun to police, then hid all the knives in their house before telling him what she had done.

“It could have been 100 times worse,” Anne says. “You live with this for the rest of your life. It never goes away.”

The stories of Anne and Donna run on a parallel course, but for the crucial decisions one woman made that helped her get away.


With the anniversary of her death on their minds, Donna Jones’s brother and sister sat down with the Citizen recently to share their view of their sister’s story in detail for the first time.

Jennifer Jones says she believes her sister, a public servant, met Hutt at a vulnerable time. Donna had just moved out on her own and was worried about paying her mortgage. But she was good with money. She had paid off her student loan and saved for a down-payment on a house.

By the time she died she was on the verge of bankruptcy, the result of years of financial abuse at the hands of a man who only worked briefly as a roofer. The more Donna gave, the more Hutt took.

Hutt took control of all aspects of their relationship — often a precursor to domestic violence, experts say.

Donna spent most lunch hours at her desk in the human resources department of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, waiting for Hutt to call. She’d leave meetings that ran beyond an hour so she wouldn’t have to deal with Hutt’s anger for not answering her phone. At home, Hutt demanded that Donna call herself names in front of her friends to show who was in charge.

Jennifer says the sisters talked on the phone but rarely saw each other. When Jennifer asked if Hutt’s large dogs were the reason she wasn’t invited over, Donna responded: “Among other things.”

“I kind of picked up on that right away,” Jennifer says. “You know how somebody is trying to give you hints?”

Hints, so often, are the only indication of an abusive relationship. The early warning signs are subtle and reveal themselves only gradually.


Deborah Sinclair, a social worker and domestic violence expert who testified at Hutt’s trial, compares the tactics abusers use with intimate partners to the way human traffickers groom victims. They become quickly, intensely involved, saying everything the partner wants to hear. It’s called the entrapment stage, Sinclair says.

When a physical, emotional, verbal or sexual attack occurs, the woman is usually shocked, Sinclair says. Often, she convinces herself that her partner’s behaviour was out of character. He drank too much or didn’t get enough sleep. The abuser usually begs for forgiveness, which validates the abused person’s rationalization.

Sinclair says an abuser begins to isolate his partner from her network of friends and family. He tries to draw sympathy for himself, pointing to his upbringing or any problem he’s had in his life.

Hutt, Sinclair says, played on Donna’s sympathy and loyalty. Donna likely felt sorry for Hutt when he fretted that she would leave him just like everyone else had.

Eventually, Donna could no longer hide her bruises or explain away her injuries from scalding water and pellet gun projectiles.

Concerned, Donna’s friends, co-workers and brother took a dramatic step. They gathered at a friend’s home and, when Donna arrived, told her they felt she was hiding something and protecting Hutt.

Days before, Derek had received a call from an organizer of the intervention. When she told him what she and the others were observing, he was unsurprised. “There was always suspicion in the back of my head, but that was the first confirmation.”

Donna’s friends told her they had secured a bed in a woman’s shelter and planned to go to police to get Hutt out of her home.

Donna refused the help. Derek says trying to get his sister to admit to the abuse was like dealing with a drug addict.

Donna and Hutt had a date set to be married, but some of Donna’s chosen bridesmaids told her that night that they refused to be in her wedding because of the abuse. (A month later, she would go ahead with the wedding.)

In retrospect, the intervention might have been a pivotal moment, one in which Donna could have started to devise her own strategy to leave. But it became clear that she was in denial. Sinclair says she believes the intervention backfired and made Donna even closer to Hutt.

Donna became yet more isolated. The year she died, she had missed almost 80 days of work. And the more Jennifer and Derek tried to help their sister, the more withdrawn she became.

Throughout, Jennifer says she kept the lines of communication open with her sister, a woman with a “mischievous, infectious laugh” and a big smile, so Donna knew she had a place to go if she was ready.

That day never came.

“It’s such a waste,” Jennifer says. “If he didn’t want her anymore he could have just dropped her off at home.”

Anne keeps journals. There are pages and pages describing her time with her ex-husband — and the memories are painful.

She was 28 when she became engaged after four months of dating a man who seemed charismatic and charming. They moved in together. The first sign of aggression was when he punched a hole in the wall. Anne thought he was having a bad day, and they covered the hole with a picture.

But there were other incidents. Anne was in the kitchen when her partner crushed a glass in his hand. Blood and broken glass were everywhere.

“That’s intimidating,” she says. “That’s kind of signalling ‘This is what I can do to you.’”

She thought that once they were married, things would get better. But just like some of Donna’s friends, one of Anne’s bridesmaids refused to be in her wedding party.

During what should have been an exciting time in her life, Anne’s diary paints a picture of a battered woman having second thoughts about marriage. Less than a month before the ceremony, Anne wrote in her journal that she sat in her car crying that day, wondering why she put up with the abuse.

It was that day that she decided to join a support group for abused women. Anne reached out for help, which was something Donna would never do.

In 2001, the couple married. On Anne’s wedding day, at least one friend noticed the bruise on her arm. Her fiancé had grabbed her so hard that he left a mark.

The abuse got worse. Repeatedly, he held her on the floor with her face in the carpet. “Being restrained by someone like that is mortifying and makes you shrivel up inside,” Anne says.

After her husband held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her, Anne’s counsellor told her to get all weapons out of their house. She took his handgun from the locked box in their bedroom closet and brought it to the Elgin Street police station.

Even as Anne was signing papers at a lawyer’s office after they were separated just shy of their two-year anniversary, her husband tried to control her.

He told Anne not say anything about their relationship if she was called for a reference. He was trying to become a police officer.

“I am not going to be silent,” Anne replied. “You have no more power over me.”


During a counselling session just before their marriage ended — the couple saw a total of nine counsellors — Anne got up and said, “I’m done.”

It was a turning point, says Sinclair, the domestic abuse expert, the moment when a partner starts to really think about leaving.

Sinclair says that’s also the most dangerous time. A woman may not leave the relationship at that point, but Sinclair says she won’t return to the “honeymoon phase,” where she tells herself the abuse is some kind of aberration.

Anne says she ignored the warning signs. She says she never should have married her ex-husband. She should have left sooner. She should have reported the abuse.

“All of this I will have to live with and feel guilty about,” Anne says. “What I don’t feel guilty about is becoming stronger and voicing this now.”

Today, Anne is in what she describes as a healthy, fulfilling marriage to a different man. She has two children.

Friends and family often wonder why someone who suffers abuse doesn’t leave earlier. Police and women’s advocates say that places the blame on the victim — the survivor — instead of the abuser.



Leighann Burns, executive director of Harmony House women’s shelter, says financial fears are a major factor. If a woman leaves, Burns says, she might have to go on social assistance so her partner can’t track her down at work.

Burns cites the 2009 case of Claude Légaré, who, undeterred by a restraining order, repeatedly stabbed his ex-partner, Brenda Van Leyen, outside a Barrhaven drugstore where she was delivering mail for Canada Post. She survived. Légaré was later found dead in the burned-out remains of his home.

Anne didn’t leave right away. She had to create an exit strategy and make sure she had a safe place to stay.

Anne says she was horrified when a co-worker later told her she couldn’t believe she had stayed and said she thought Anne was stronger than that.

“Why didn’t I leave sooner? I wasn’t ready,” Anne says. “I didn’t have all my ducks in a row.”

Violence by the numbers: Domestic abuse complaints Ottawa police deemed credible between 2009 and 2013

2,590: assaults
651: criminal harassment and stalking
545: assault with a weapon
402: assault causing bodily harm
328: uttering threats
260: harassing phone calls
96: aggravated assault
19: sexual assault
3,397: Number of men charged (85 per cent of total)
608: Number of women (15 per cent)






Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

The Ottawa Police operate an "Old School" style of policing that has a lot in common with that of Criminal Organizations that operate with their own "Codes of silence".

When it comes to Domestic Violence, the Ottawa Police Operate by Male Sharia Law, Ontario's Gender Superiority program that deprives fathers and children of all their legal rights and effectively promotes murder and domestic violence by women towards fathers.

One Criminal that the Chief of the Ottawa Police and Fantino will not be telling you about is Ottawa Police Badge No. 1639 belonging to "Disgusting Rotten cop" Detective Peter Van Der Zander and here is a story the Ottawa Police will not tell you.

The Ottawa Police have their own "Restorative Justice" program. They simply Fabricate Evidence NOT to charge Violent Dentistry Students and to engage in malicious prosecutions of Male Victims of domestic Violence.

A classic example is that of Ottawa Police Detective Peter Van Der Zander who fabricated Evidence NOT to charge a Dentistry Student for attempting to strangle to death the father of their children.

The attending officers and a witness noted that the father was bleeding around the neck with scratch marks around his neck, consistent with an attempt to strangle. His bruises were rather a spectacular colour of blue and purple with circles indicating finger pressure. The Father described that after years of habitual unprovoked violence towards the children and father, that he was forced to call police because she had forced his head on to a couch by pulling his hair, and had placed a strangle hold around his neck that prevented him from breathing.

Detective Van Der Zander also listened to a stereo audio recording of the entire event that was stopped after the police arrived and taken by the police so it could not have been "edited".

Van Der Zander Fabricated an Occurrence report that the Female Dentistry Student "denied pulling his hair and attempting to choke him" He expressed a concern that IF he let her go without charges that "next time" she might kill him with a knife" so he released her so she could "call police" next time.

He sent her home with a "victim support" person, a free taxi reserved by the Ottawa Police for women who attempt to strangle the full time fathers of their children.

The Video Recording of Van Der Zander's Interview showed that Van Der Zander never asked her if she "pulled his hair and attempted to choke him". His occurrence report
claimed her assaults were"a reflex action" however not one of the several claimed expressions that Van Der Zander Claimed he "heard" on the recording did in fact exist. His report was obviously Fabricated to justify his Obstruct Justice and Fabrication of Evidence.

He then kept the father incarcerated for a further 16 hours and AFTER he released the mother, he finally interviewed the father, failed to photograph any of his injuries and interrogated him accusing him of being a pedophile without any such allegation or evidence to justify that terrorism.

Several months later she assaulted her new male partner with a Strangle Hold to the neck, "with her hands around his neck and her thumbs intertwined around his neck" saying " My Father was KBG, I know what I am doing". When that male reported the assault to Ottawa Police they did absolutely nothing. When she learned of his statement, she threatened him with false allegations which was in turn reported to the Ottawa Police who did absolutely nothing.

Ottawa Mens Centre