First in a two-part series
The murder of two people in a shooting in Conception Bay South last month was the tragic end to a 15-year nightmare of mental and physical abuse, say the parents of one of the victims.
The Hibbs family is speaking publicly for the first time since Brian Dawe shot Juliane Hibbs and Vince Dillon dead at Villa Nova Plaza in Conception Bay South before turning the gun on himself. They say the system failed Juliane, who was estranged from them for many years at the hands of the controlling and threatening Dawe, long before he killed her.
“I think of a very gentle, loving person. Very mild-mannered, very unassuming, non-judging,” said Juliane’s father, Philip Hibbs, at his Topsail home, this week, remembering his daughter as an avid reader who wrote poetry and stories from an early age.
“She was smart, she was happy, she was very thoughtful to others. She was very caring to others. She never raised her voice, she never got mad.”
Juliane met Dawe — eight years her senior — in 1994 when she was still a high school student at Queen Elizabeth. Her parents say their daughter was flattered by the attention from an older man, but her grades started to drop as she spent more time with Dawe — telling her parents that she was spending time at a friend’s house.
When the Hibbs learned of the relationship, they were concerned about the age gap.
“He seemed like he was putting Juliane on a pedestal, in a way. He was all over her, and this and that,” said Philip.
“We thought this strange for a person at 24. I mean, you’re not out looking for 16-year-olds. It gave us a wrong vibe.”
They were also concerned — as they learned from asking around, as recounted in statements they later made to police — that Dawe hung with a rough crowd, hadn’t finished high school and didn’t have a job, but seemed to have an endless supply of money and multiple cars and motorcycles.
“He was into illicit activity of any kind — disposing of stolen goods, drugs, and anything and everything that goes along with that,” said Philip.
School counsellors at Dawe’s former schools further alarmed them, warning the Hibbs that Dawe was controlling and manipulative.
The family struggled with trying to intervene in the relationship while being concerned that too forceful a position would only push their teenage daughter closer to Dawe.
After Juliane turned 17 in January 1995, say her parents, Dawe stepped up his manipulation and control and began encouraging Juliane to leave home.
“While she was struggling to try to see what we were telling her, Brian was on the other hand countering that with sweetness, and saying, ‘That’s only lies,’ and she was confused,” said Philip.
“She didn’t see the bad in people,” added Debbie, Juliane’s mother.
Things got worse when the Hibbs refused to grant permission for Juliane to stay the weekend at Dawe’s house. Unbeknownst to them, Dawe had begun picking Juliane up at school at recesses and lunchtimes and taking her home with him.
When Juliane didn’t come home after school one day, Debbie and Philip went to Dawe’s house, where Dawe told them that Juliane — who would sit by silently and, according to the Hibbs, looked frightened — was not coming home with them.
After they threatened to involve the police, Dawe eventually relented and Juliane returned home.
But the tug-of-war would play itself out over and over.
“Brian had just instilled so much fear in her,” said Debbie. “She just couldn’t make decisions and we just couldn’t seem to reason with him, and we could not get any help, no matter where we turned — from counsellors, to friends, to police, to lawyers — there was nothing anybody could do.”
Things came to a head a couple of days after Juliane’s midterms that year, when she didn’t come home after school. When her parents went to Dawe’s house, Dawe’s mother told them Brian and Juliane weren’t there, but refused to say where they were.
They later received a call from the police, who had been tipped off by a front-desk employee at the Kilmory Resort in Swift Current, who had reported to the police that a man had checked in to the resort with a woman who seemed to be there against her will.
The Hibbs arrived at the resort Sunday morning after stormy weather relented enough for them to make the drive, and what ensued was a bizarre, six-hour negotiation in which Dawe spoke for Juliane and said he was going to provide for her from now on.
“He started to dictate terms to us under which he would allow Juliane to come back home,” said Philip.
“He would allow her to come home if we agreed that she could spend half the week living at his house, and she could come home for half the week.”
Eventually, the Hibbs agreed to discuss things further at dinner at their house Sunday evening, and everyone agreed to return to C.B.S.
But instead of Juliane and Dawe coming for supper that evening, the Hibbs received a call from him saying Juliane wouldn’t be coming home.
Dawe brought Juliane to school the next morning and instructed school officials that her parents were not to speak to her or pick her up. The Hibbs received a call from the school alerting them and they rushed to the school to talk things over with Juliane and the school counsellor.
Dawe came back and demanded to see her, and was ordered to leave the building. He left and sat in his car in front of the school doors, waiting. Philip wonders what might have happened if they or the school had called police then.
Series: Violence at home
“There’s a series of things that just did not get done by people in authority that might have made a difference. I don’t know. In retrospect, it might have made a difference,” Philip said.
They left with Juliane — Dawe followed them home in his car — and kept her out of school for the next couple of weeks, during which time they don’t believe Juliane had any contact with Dawe.
“Everything seemed like it was getting back to normal,” said Philip.
When they thought it was safe, they took Juliane back to school. Philip says he thought Juliane was a little nervous, but he insisted she return, thinking the problem was over and wanting her to continue her Grade 11 studies.
“Biggest mistake I ever made,” said Philip, his voice faltering.
Juliane’s first day back at school was her last one.
“He went to the school and got her, and she never came home after that.”
Monday: a life lived in fear