Globe and Mail

What to make of the Miracle Baby story

PAUL SULLIVAN
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, October 2, 1999

I was driving to work and passed a car with a bumper sticker that said: "People Suck."

Whoa, I thought. That's a hard-nosed variation on the theme: "The more people I meet, the more I like my dog." And it's an entire magnitude more bracing than that common capsule of Sunshine Girl philosophy, "Mean People Suck," which also ends up stuck on bumpers.

I squinted for a look inside at the misanthropic occupant, who seemed an everyday, garden-variety soccer mom, blonde ponytail, forging grimly ahead with that air of shopping-and-errands soccer moms do get.

What could have happened to her, I wondered, that gave her such a sour outlook? And why a bumper sticker? Were we in the commuting community supposed to nod our heads and mutter "right on" together in traffic, acknowledging our loathsomeness?

Or maybe she's just been following the story of Kaya the Miracle Baby, which is enough to frost anyone's bumper sticker.

This story, which is a nation-gripper, started as a good-news story last week when, somehow, 18-month-old Kaya fell off the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, plummeted 45.5 metres (150 feet) to the rocks below and, hardly worse for the wear, survived.

Rescue workers were astonished. Professors were brought in to explain how such a miracle could occur. There was speculation that the soft evergreen boughs below broke the child's fall, but it was a miracle beyond explanation.

For a while, we thought Kaya was the Luckiest Baby Alive, and those of us with religion may even have thought this was a child blessed by God. Until the possibility emerged that Kaya's fall was no accident, that she may have been tossed over the bridge by her own mother.

That's the suspicion being pursued with vigour by the RCMP, who held the mother for 24 hours after the incident and later searched her home looking for evidence of motive.

According to search-warrant documents released by the Mounties, suspicions were aroused by the mother's behaviour at the scene. As the rescue workers lowered the ropes to bring up the infant, presumed dead, the mother went "berserk." But the moment she heard the news that her baby was alive, she went "stone cold." And she had a hard time getting her story straight, telling police at the scene that the child fell off her arm, and later that she slipped, twisted her ankle, or couldn't remember exactly what happened.

Then there's the strange 911 call immediately after the incident, from the ex-husband who was not at the scene. He said that his wife had called him from the scene, and then "told police that his wife had thrown Kaya off the Capilano Bridge." A check of the mother's cellphone records confirmed that she did call her husband immediately after the incident.

A few days ago, police released blowups of photos taken by a tourist, which first show the mother with Kaya, then with her empty arm extended over the bridge.

There's more about the mother, Nadia Hama, age variously reported as 37, 38 and 39. Her marriage to Kaya's father, Kjeld Werbes, husband No. 5, is on the rocks. The two have been involved in what is always called "a bitter court battle" over custody of their two kids and child support.

We have learned that Kaya has Down syndrome, and police believe Ms. Hama was negotiating with a U.S. woman to adopt the baby because she was having trouble coping with her.

As this is written, police have not charged Ms. Hama with a crime. They just keep building a case against her in public. Even the RCMP are sensitive to the difficulty we all have believing that a mother could use one of Vancouver's foremost tourist attractions as a murder weapon against her own baby.

The poor little kid. How would you feel growing up with this in your background? Talk about childhood trauma. It may be another of the peculiar blessings bestowed by an inscrutable God that Kaya has Down syndrome. She may never really know or understand what happened.

But then there's her five-year-old brother Jovan, who was on the bridge, holding Mommy's hand throughout the incident. He should just start making appointments with his therapist now.

I have to admit I had an unworthy, sneaky little Angry Old White Male thought, that all injustices against children are not committed by men, and that feminists should spend more time protecting future generations from their mothers. Maybe open shelters strictly for children, and keep all the quarrelling parents away.

Maybe Soccer Mom had it right after all. People do Suck, especially the big ones.
E-mail: psulli@sullivanmedia.com

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