Globe and Mail

Father reported baby's fall from bridge

He wasn't on scene but called police

ROD MICKLEBURGH and PETER KENNEDY
British Columbia Bureau; With reports from Chris Morris and Kim Lunman
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Vancouver -- Police were first told that an 18-month-old girl had fallen from a high suspension bridge last week by the baby's father, who was not at the scene at the time, RCMP investigators said yesterday.

Heightening the mystery over the child's 45-metre plunge from her mother's arms to a rocky canyon below, police said the father phoned 911 shortly after the incident "as a result of a phone call he received."

"He was the first to tell us about it," said Constable Heidi Hoffman of the North Vancouver RCMP, who denied reports that the father called 911 before the fall from the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which the girl miraculously survived.

Constable Hoffman refused to say who told the father the child had fallen.

"We're not saying. This is all part of a police investigation that is continuing."

Police are trying to determine whether the fall was accidental, as Nadia Hama, the baby's mother, says, or whether the child, Kaya, was dropped over the bridge railing on purpose.

Confronted by reporters outside her condominium yesterday, Ms. Hama refused to make any comment. "One day you'll hear my comments, but not at this moment, thank you," she said. Asked about Kaya, Ms. Hama said only, "She's fine."

The child's fall is thought to have been broken by tree branches, and she suffered only cuts and bruises.

The RCMP raided Ms. Hama's condominium late last week as part of their investigation.

Ms. Hama, 38, and Kjeld Werbes, 53, a Vancouver securities lawyer, have been separated since January of 1998, three months before their daughter was born. Kaya suffers from Down syndrome.

The couple have been engaged in bitter legal battles over support payments and other matters. Mr. Werbes was found guilty of contempt of court this June for failing to comply with previous court orders.

Kaya was released from hospital yesterday. Mr. Werbes's brother Jan and his wife, Debbie, who are taking care of the girl's four-year-old brother, Jovan, were expecting that she would stay with them. Neighbours were seen arriving with plates of food at the home.

Kaya and Jovan had been with their mother until last Wednesday's incident.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry for Children and Families said of Kaya: "She's doing well." The children are officially under the care of the ministry.

"If there is family available where they could stay, that is our first option, providing we are confident they are able to care for them," the spokeswoman said.

She said ministry authorities apprehended the children because of the continuing police investigation.

A young woman, believed to be the Werbes's' daughter, told reporters outside their North Vancouver home yesterday that the family is not allowed to comment on the case or to allow pictures to be taken of Kaya.

On Sunday, however, Debbie Werbes said Kaya was doing "very, very well. I don't think there's any words to describe it [her survival]. It's just unbelievable. We're all anxious to get her here."

She added that Kjeld Werbes had kept a constant vigil at his daughter's side since she fell.

His first wife said her former husband has been unfairly portrayed in media accounts since the bridge incident led to the disclosure of his divorce battles with Ms. Hama.

"He's a wonderful, wonderful father," said Carrie Werbes, who has a 21-year old son, Jevin, from her marriage to Mr. Werbes, which lasted 17 years and ended in 1989. She said the divorce was amicable. "He loves his children. He wants this all to be over so his children can be with him."

A long-time friend and client of Mr. Werbes called him a fun-loving guy who was good to his friends and "a good catch" for someone like Nadia Hamas.

Patrick Cole, a California travel industry executive, said the two met in 1989 when Mr. Werbes had his hair cut at a salon where Ms. Hamas worked.

Mr. Cole said he believed his friend was attracted by her good looks, even though she had been married four times.

Mr. Cole said he didn't know what led to the acrimonious divorce proceedings, with battles over child support, a $65,000 Ferrari, and an expensive condominium in the trendy Whistler Mountain ski resort.

"I'm sure there was good reason, but I don't know all the circumstances."

He said Mr. Werbes was not "super wealthy," despite having more than $1-million in assets. Noting that the lawyer was heavily involved in the resources section of the Vancouver Stock Exchange, he said Mr. Werbes fell on hard times after the 1997 Bre-X Minerals gold scam.

"From then on, he has been struggling big time," Mr. Cole said.

Copyright © 1999 Globe Information Services