Scandal and suicide

BARRY CAME November 10 1997

Scandal and suicide

BARRY CAME November 10 1997

Scandal and suicide

A tragic death darkens the Gardens' sordid tale

No memorials mark the place where Martin Kruze chose to die. There are no flowers, no fading snapshots, not even a grim swath of police tape to indicate that a young man ended his days at the site. The spot itself is not unpleasant, a verdant patch of long meadow grass sandwiched between the Don River and the Don Valley Parkway, within sight of downtown Toronto’s skyscrapers.

But it lies at the bottom of a deep ravine almost directly beneath one of the city’s principal bridges, the Bloor Street Viaduct. On the bright morning of Oct. 30, around 11 o’clock, Kruze, the tortured 35-yearold whose complaints of sexual abuse uncovered a scandal at Maple Leaf Gardens, jumped off the bridge, plunging to his death. “It is a tragedy that should never have happened,” his sister-in-law, Teresa Kruze, told Maclean’s. “The torment Martin had to go through in his tooshort life made him decide to do what he did.”

No one may ever know precisely what drove the troubled young man to commit his final desperate act.

But few doubt that his suicide—he had attempted it several times before—was directly linked to the seven years of sexual abuse he suffered when, as a starry-eyed 13-year-old hockey worshipper, he first fell into the unscrupulous hands of a ring of pedophiles operating out of Maple Leaf Gardens. It was Kruze’s courage in publicly describing earlier this year the ordeal he endured between 1975 and 1982 that blew the lid off the affair. And in one of the many sad twists of the tale, Kruze jumped from the Bloor Viaduct only three days after one of his abusers, 47-year-old Gordon Stuckless, was sent to jail for two years less a day on more than 20 charges of indecent and sexual assault—a sentence that victims decried as obscenely light. Kruze died almost within sight of the former Gardens assistant equipment manager, who at the time was being held in Toronto Jail, just over a kilometre south of the Bloor bridge.

Despite the confluence of time and location, Kruze’s family does not blame Stuckless’s sentence, which includes three years’ probation after prison as well as chemical

castration, for the young man’s decision to take his life. “It’s a matter of public record that Martin tried to take his life several times in the past,” said his sister-in-law. Only six days before he leaped from the Bloor bridge, in fact, Kruze had attempted to hurl himself off another bridge—the Leaside— further north on the Don Valley Parkway. He was prevented by the timely interven-

tion of Metro Toronto Police Const. Mike Jenkins, who remembered being struck by Kruze’s “sullen, beaten” demeanor. “It was obvious that this was a fellow who was going to jump,” Jenkins, a 22-year-veteran of the police force, told Maclean’s.

When the constable asked why he wanted to kill himself, Kruze replied: “I’ve had enough. I want to die. I want somebody to watch me.” The response, Jenkins recalled, “really got me, just the way he said it, the look in his eyes and everything. I knew this wasn’t just somebody looking for attention.”

As Jenkins engaged Kruze in conversation, he managed to edge closer. “I got within six or eight feet of him,” said the constable, “and at that point he made up his mind he was going.” Jenkins watched as Kruze flung a leg over the bridge’s railing. “I tackled him, knocked him down, sat on him until another officer arrived,” said Jenkins. “When he was on the ground, he said, ‘I don’t want to hurt you, I just want to die.’ ”

It would take almost another week before that occurred, however. Jenkins took Kruze to Toronto East General Hospital, where he was admitted under the Mental Health Act as posing a danger to himself. In keeping with the law, Kruze was discharged 72 hours later, on Monday, Oct. 27. It was the same day that Ontario Court Justice David Watt handed down Stuckless’s sentence, a decision that was noisily denounced by many of those who fell victim to the former Gardens employee or his two alleged accomplices.

One, former equipment manager George Hannah, is now dead. The other, onetime usher John Paul Roby, awaits trial.

Had it not been for Kruze’s decision to step forward last winter, few details of the sordid affair would likely have surfaced, i Not only did he describe § his own experiences, he § encouraged dozens of othH ers to publicly recount similar tales of Gardens’ personnel dispensing favors to hockey-mad youngsters only to prey on them. Like Kruze, many found that access to hockey games and equipment often required sexual payment—from fondling to mutual masturbation and oral sex, some! times in groups.

£ That sort of abuse, says 1 Jenni Tipper of the Ottawa^ based Canadian Institute of Child Health, can have devastating consequences. “Adult survivors,” she notes, “typically have difficulty building trust in relationships, often suffer from profound feelings of blame, guilt, self-doubt.”

Those are certainly symptoms similar to those described by Kruze himself. And while no one in his family is willing to draw a direct link between his death and the sentence handed down to his abuser, they share the view held by many of the victims of the Gardens pedophiles. “In the end, we feel that justice was not served,” Kruze’s family noted in a statement released after his death. “Unfortunately, Martin paid the biggest price of all—with his life.”