Globe and Mail

Jan Wong looks at the case of Nadia Hama

Jan Wong
The Globe and Mail
Friday, October 1, 1999

Baby Kaya bounced, as if in a Disney movie, from bough to bough. Miraculously, she came to lie, slightly bruised, on a rocky ridge, one metre from the rushing Capilano River.

The question of the intent to commit infanticide is as old as civilization itself. But times have changed. Now, with E-mail, phone records and tourist cameras, not to mention excruciatingly detailed court documents, we have replaced mythic tragedy with stark reality. We know so much, but we know so little.

Baby Kaya has mild Down syndrome. Did her mother have amniocentesis? Did she consider abortion? Why did Kaya's father leave before her birth?

Ten days ago, her mother, Nadia Hama, took Kaya and her five-year-old brother, Jovan, to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Ms. Hama says she stumbled. The police suggest Baby Kaya may have been tossed. They have not charged her with any crime. Tourist photos show Ms. Hama, moments afterward, one arm outstretched, the other still holding Jovan's hand.

She didn't call 911. Instead, she used her cell phone to call her estranged husband. He dialed 911.

But before we consider the mother, let's look at the father. Kjeld Werbes met her a decade ago when he had his hair cut in the salon where she was an esthetician. His first marriage was crumbling. She says they moved in together in 1992. Jovan was born in 1994.

In November, 1996, they married in a Las Vegas chapel. She apparently signed a pre-nuptial agreement. The marriage lasted 14 months. He questioned both Jovan and Kaya's paternity, an issue resolved by testing. He left when Ms. Hama was five months pregnant with Baby Kaya.

Family court has ordered Mr. Werbes, now in his 50s, to buy a toddler car-seat. It has also ordered him to take both children at the same time so Ms. Hamas could have some respite. Recently he was found in contempt of court for not paying the required amount of child support.

As a Vancouver securities lawyer, his assets totalled $2.3-million. They include properties in Vancouver, Whistler, B.C., Cape Breton, the United States and, until he was ordered to give it to Ms. Hamas, a Ferrari.

Ms. Hamas, who is in her late 30s, was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Her first marriage, to a Quebec tourist in Lebanon, broke down in 1985. Four years and three other marriages later, she became involved with Mr. Werbes.

The police have made much of her attempts, by E-mail, to seek adoption for Kaya. But the Down Syndrome Research Foundation of Vancouver told me hospitals routinely offer parents the option of adoption. And a mother who runs a local parents' support group said Ms. Hamas "was thrilled" with the birth of her daughter.

She stopped working after Jovan's birth. After Kaya's birth, she wanted to take her children to Syria, where she has family, for an extended period. Mr. Werbes fought her, asking the court to limit her out-of-province time to 14 days. Considering jet lag, a trip to Syria would be more torture than respite.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is scary. It's made of little pieces of wood and wire. It sways and bounces. If you dare look down, you can see the treetops and, the equivalent of 15 stories below, the rushing river.

After a day of running around doing errands, she didn't go home, defrost and plunk the kids in front of the TV. Instead, at 4:40, she arrived at the bridge.

Like all Down syndrome kids, Baby Kaya has poor muscle tone. At 18 months, she can't walk or talk or even hold herself upright. Ms. Hama didn't put her in a Snugli or a stroller. Instead, she lugged her around for 50 minutes.

Around 5:30, Baby Kaya landed on the rocky ledge. The paramedics reached her at 5:43. She was waving her arms and crying lustily.

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