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Character Profiles > Gary Canning Damien Richardson

Gary Francis Xavier Canning 2014-2015, 2016-
Parents: Sheila and Frank Canning
Siblings: Naomi
Marital Status: Sharon (Divorced); Brooke
Children: Kyle, Xanthe
Occupation: Handyman

After walking out on his wife, Sharon and their eight-year old son, Kyle, Gary Canning had little to do with his family in the years that followed, though he did have occasional contact with his mum, Sheila. She helped him out when he needed money and tried, but failed, to make him visit his son. However, on one particular visit, not long after Kyle had married Georgia Brooks, Sheila raised her grandson's suspicions, and he and Georgia followed her. Kyle quickly recognised his dad and later confronted Sheila, who explained that she only saw Gary when he needed her help and that she was just as upset with his reluctance to speak to Kyle. Seeing how devastated Kyle was with the situation, Georgia found Gary's number in Sheila's phone and arranged to meet, where she told him about the effect his absence had had on his young son over the years.

Finally confronted with the reality of his actions, Gary went back to Ramsay Street with Georgia, where he and Kyle tried to make up for lost time. They awkwardly chatted about their lives, and Gary was proud to see what a nice young man his son had become. But seeing Kyle with his dog, Bossy, proved too much for Gary, who left in a hurry. Not wanting his dad to disappear again without an explanation, Kyle followed him out onto the street and was surprised to find that he was crying. Gary told Kyle that, when he was a young boy, he'd had a dog and the two had been inseparable, so seeing Kyle with Bossy had brought back some memories. Kyle was left confused about his feelings, but wasn't surprised when Gary failed to get in touch for a few days, and Georgia decided to reach out to him again. Georgia's text message persuaded Gary to return, and he agreed to tell Kyle and Sheila the truth about why he'd disappeared all those years ago. He told them that he'd witnessed the Mackenzie brothers, a couple of notorious Frankston criminals, running by one night and had later learnt that there had been an armed robbery nearby. As the brothers had spotted him, they threatened him and his family if he didn't keep quiet about what he'd seen, so he decided that the safest option for everyone was to leave.

Though Kyle quickly accepted his father's explanation, Sheila was a little more suspicious - she went to neighbour Mark Brennan, a former detective, and asked if he could find anything out about this supposed armed robbery 15 years earlier. When Brennan came back and confirmed that it had happened, though the crime had never been pinned on anyone, it was enough for Sheila to believe what Gary was saying, and she tried to persuade a reluctant Gary to go to the police with what he knew. He agreed to think about it, but quickly found another distraction as he helped Kyle to build a new bed for neighbours Karl and Susan Kennedy. As Karl was trying it out, there was an immediate problem with a cracking sound from underneath, but Kyle was determined to figure out what had gone wrong and fix it. Gary suggested that it might just need some WD40, but as Kyle went to get some, Gary then managed to locate the problem and fix it. Though slightly put out, Kyle quickly became grateful for his dad's help, and Sheila and Georgia were very surprised to arrive at the shed to find Gary and Kyle jumping around on the new bed as they tested it out.

As Gary's sister Naomi returned to Erinsborough after several weeks away, she made it clear that she wasn't fooled by Gary's nice guy act, and knew what he was really like. Gary then managed to stuff things up for his son when he failed to lock up the ute properly - Kyle's tools were stolen, and he admitted that he hadn't been able to afford the insurance recently. Desperate to make up for his mistake, Gary bought some more tools from a mate, but Sheila caught him in the act and warned him to return them, as she wouldn't have her son handling stolen goods. Gary then turned to his old mate Tommo for help, who put him in touch with Paul Robinson if he wanted to make some quick cash. Without giving his surname, Gary went to Paul and begged him for some help - at first, Paul turned him away, but quickly realised that Gary could be of some use, and told him to give Ezra Hanley a scare. Ezra, who had been suing Paul's hotel, Lassiter's, for unfair dismissal, ran off home to Perth, dropping the lawsuit, and Paul was pleased, until he found out who Gary actually was. As Christmas arrived, Gary met Paul outside the Canning house and received his payment, witnessed by Sheila, who quickly realised what had been going on. She confronted Gary and told him that, if he didn't go to the police, then she'd call them herself. But as Gary walked out the door, a frustrated Sheila suddenly suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed.

When Naomi returned to the house, following an earlier argument with her mum and Gary, she found Sheila and quickly raised the alarm. As the rest of the Cannings waited at the hospital for news, Gary was contacted and eventually turned up, though he didn't admit that he'd been doing a runner, or that it had been his actions that had led to Sheila's collapse. But as Kyle remained completely oblivious to his father's lies, Naomi wasn't fooled and finally snapped, telling Kyle that his dad's story about being a witness to the Mackenzie brothers' armed robbery wasn't entirely true, and that Gary had actually been the getaway driver. Gary then admitted his involvement with Paul Robinson and that he'd been paid to beat up Ezra Hanley - and that he'd been arguing about it with Sheila before she collapsed. Kyle's conscience quickly kicked in, particularly as Brad Willis had become the prime suspect for Ezra's attack, and he shopped his dad to the police. Gary was quickly taken in for questioning, giving them the whole story about Paul's involvement, and it wasn't long before Paul was also being questioned and charged. As Mayor of Erinsborough, Paul had a lot to lose, and quickly formed a plan, paying Gary's bail then arranging to meet him, where he offered him a large sum of money to retract his statement.

Realising that the money could help his family and make up for some of his past mistakes, Gary went to Kyle and Naomi, giving them each an envelope of cash - which they both refused to accept - before depositing some more money into Sheila's bank account. He then went to the police and retracted his statement, getting Paul off the hook in the process. With his bail revoked, Gary was then kept at the police station, and he contacted Georgia, asking her to try and convince Kyle to visit him, so that he could say goodbye. Kyle refused to go, but Sheila and Naomi decided that they wanted to see him. After making it clear that she was disgusted with Gary's actions, Naomi left him with her mum, and Sheila, who'd been allowed out of hospital for the visit, admitted that she felt responsible for everything, and blamed herself for raising a son like Gary. He, however, pointed out that she'd also raised Naomi, who was mostly a decent human being, and Kyle, who'd turned out to be a great young man. Later that day, as Gary was being taken away to jail, Kyle finally decided that he needed to see his dad one last time, and managed to say goodbye, even agreeing to his dad's request that he would keep in touch and write to him in prison.

Even safely locked away in prison, Gary managed to provide a few surprises for Sheila and Kyle - a year later, a 15-year-old girl named Xanthe turned up, looking for Gary and claiming that she was his daughter. Though sceptical, Sheila called Gary, who confirmed that he had a wife and daughter on the Gold Coast - and Kyle was upset to realise just how close Gary had been to Xanthe while she was growing up. However, Gary had told his other family that he was away working, and when Xanthe's mum, Brooke, had to skip the country after endorsing a dodgy dating website on TV, she sent her daughter to stay with her dad. Xanthe was stunned to learn that her dad was actually in prison, and it took a while for the trio of Sheila, Kyle and Xanthe to start to learn to live with each other and iron out their difference, but with her only other option to go into care, Xanthe tried to make things work. When Kyle then received a birthday card from his dad, which mentioned that he was hoping to be out on parole in a couple of weeks, Xanthe wanted to go and visit him, but Kyle refused. Sheila agreed to take Xanthe to visit Gary, who was pleased when his mum said that he could come and stay with them when he got out of prison. Xanthe then excitedly started planning to surprise for Gary - a bed built by Kyle. But although Kyle had claimed that he would accept it if Gary moved in, he later visited his father and warned him not to stuff up this opportunity, and not to let down Xanthe. Gary then panicked and got himself into a fight, knowing that it would ruin his chances of getting parole any time soon, and asked Sheila to come and see him, and she then had to go home and tell Xanthe that her dad wouldn't be coming back just yet.

Later in the year, as he prepared for his parole, Gary was joined at Warrinor Prison by Paul, who'd been framed for an explosion at Lassiter's Hotel, which had killed Josh and Doug Willis. With the other inmates determined to make Paul suffer, and refusing to serve him any food in the canteen, he was surprised when they all backed off when Gary appeared. Paul tried to use their connection to his advantage, though Gary wasn't too eager to help, as Paul was the reason for him being in prison in the first place - plus Kyle had almost lost his life in the explosion. However, when Paul started giving him news about what had been happening to Xanthe, Gary appeared more open to the idea of being Paul's protection, and Paul then hoped that he'd sealed the deal by calling Sheila and asking her to come and speak to her son. However, confident that nobody would touch him again, Paul was in for a shock when Gary refused to protect him, explaining that he was getting out that day, and Paul found himself in hospital, having been badly beaten. When Gary then turned up in Erinsborough, he was shocked to find out that Xanthe was missing - having hitchhiked out of Erinsborough with her friend Angus, attempting to get him to stay, after he'd just learnt that his mum was suffering from cancer. Xanthe and Angus quickly found themselves in some unsavoury company and attempted to do a runner, only to be saved just in time by Gary and Ben, who'd used a Find Your Phone app to trace Xanthe's whereabouts. Back at home, father and daughter had a frank conversation about the danger she'd put herself in - and she then had to confess that she had an even bigger problem - she and Ben had stolen $10,000 from a fridge in Lassiter's Hotel on the day of the explosion, which belonged to Tom Quill - and now he wanted his money back.

Trivia Notes
Damien Richardson previously appeared as Kim White in 1992 and as an unnamed car yard customer in 1993
Damien had two guest stints as Gary, in late 2014/early 2015, and again briefly in early 2016, before returning as a regular character in June 2016

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Biography by Steve