Globe and Mail

Mother denies that she meant to drop her baby off bridge

Estranged husband's 'baseless accusation' blamed for suspicions

British Columbia Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Vancouver -- Nadia Hama blamed her estranged husband yesterday for the swirl of allegations that she dropped her 18-month-old daughter off the Capilano Suspension Bridge on purpose.

In a statement read on Ms. Hama's behalf, lawyer Megan Ellis said there is no basis for her "to continue under the terrible cloud of suspicion. She is a loving parent whose child suffered a terrible accident."

The "astonishing accusation" that she tossed the baby from the bridge was made to police by the child's father, Kjeld Werbes, who received a cellphone call from Ms. Hama immediately after the incident, the statement said.

The statement said Ms. Hama phoned Mr. Werbes after she was assured that 911 had already been called by staff at the popular North Vancouver tourist attraction.

"He hung up on her and called the police to make his accusation," it said.

"She turned to the child's father at the time of crisis. That was evidently a mistake. For that mistake, her ordeal has been compounded."

The three-page statement was Ms. Hama's first public response to the 45.7-metre plunge of her baby, Kaya, from the swaying suspension bridge on Sept. 22. Kaya, who has Down syndrome, survived with only a few scrapes and bruises.

A police warrant used to search the mother's home said there were "reasonable grounds" for believing that Ms. Hama had attempted to murder her child.

Police cited what they called Ms. Hama's "inappropriate behaviour" after she learned that Kaya was alive and the fact that she changed her story several times and was under stress from caring for a Down syndrome child.

However, no charges have been laid against Ms. Hama, and the search-warrant material has not been tested in court. The mother has said Kaya fell when her ankle buckled as she carried the child across the bridge.

Ms. Hama, 39, and Mr. Werbes, a 53-year-old Vancouver securities lawyer, have been engaged in a series of legal wrangles over their rocky, eight-year relationship, including Mr. Werbes's failure to make court-ordered support payments.

Since the incident, Ms. Hama has been under extreme stress, her lawyer said.

"[She] has suffered the trauma of Kaya's fall and the terrible guilt that any parent feels when their child is injured," Ms. Ellis said, adding that she has also been on trial in the media.

"Information and misinformation about her life has drowned out any notion of presumption of innocence. The baseless accusation brought by her ex-husband and its repercussions have multiplied the upset and distress this accident has caused Ms. Hama and her two children."

The estranged couple have a son, Jovan, almost five years old, who was with his mother at the time of Kaya's fall.

The children have been apprehended by provincial child-welfare authorities and are being cared for by Mr. Werbes's brother and sister-in-law.

Wearing a tan leather jacket, long skirt and pale brown blouse, Ms. Hama sat silently as Ms. Ellis read the statement at her Gastown law office.

Neither answered questions. "We don't do trial by sound bite here," Ms. Ellis said.

She acknowledged that Ms. Hama at one point had considered putting Kaya up for adoption, a suggestion first made by a hospital social worker.

This followed heart surgery the baby underwent shortly after birth.

"[But] she chose to commit herself to being a full-time parent to her two children. The stress of being a single parent has been exacerbated by the financial difficulties arising from Mr. Werbes's failure to obey court orders to pay maintenance for her and the children," the statement said.

Ms. Ellis predicted that police may never acknowledge that they do not have enough evidence to support "the dreadful allegation" by Mr. Werbes, which she blamed for instigating their investigation.

Mr. Werbes continued to maintain his public silence.

Ms. Hama's turbulent relationship with Mr. Werbes followed a tempestuous 4½-year marriage to Vancouver businessman Majid Behjati.

Ms. Hama and Mr. Behjati divorced in November, 1991, one year before she says she started living with Mr. Werbes.

In sworn affidavits submitted to court, Ms. Hama alleges that problems surfaced two weeks after she and Mr. Behjati were married in March, 1987.

She said Mr. Behjati tried to rip the wedding ring off her finger. The incident ended after she came out of the shower and was locked out of the house, wet and wearing only her bathrobe. She says she was forced to wait on the street for 30 minutes until her sister, Rima, picked her up.

At another point during their marriage, Ms. Hama says, Mr. Behjati had called her "a prostitute." In court documents, Mr. Behjati denied her allegations of physical abuse and contested her accounts of their relationship.

Ms. Hama moved out of their Vancouver home on April 1, 1990, and obtained a restraining order to ensure that her husband would have no contact with her. She moved back six weeks later.

Efforts at reconciliation failed. Ms. Hama alleges in court documents that her husband continued to see another woman.

She says she moved out again on Sept. 3, 1990, precipitating a confrontation over the furniture, including a $10,000 Persian rug.

Mr. Behjati maintained that his parents had lent the rug to them. Ms. Hama said it was a gift and sold it to a friend for $10,000 to pay a debt.

Less than a year later, Ms. Hama was facing allegations in court from Mr. Werbes in connection with a loan.

Mr. Werbes states in a court document that Ms. Hama, a hairdresser earning about $2,300 a month, had no assets and he had given her more than $12,500 "to assist generally with her expenses."

But that money was not the source of the court dispute.

Rather, Mr. Werbes took her to court for allegedly refusing to repay a loan of $22,356.40, which he gave to her to buy a 1991 black BMW Cabriolet. His cheque, dated June 7, 1991, was made out to Park Shore Motors Ltd. and Ms. Hama, under her married name, Ms. Behjati.

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