Globe and Mail

Baby's fall off suspension bridge 'horrible accident,' mother says

ROBERT MATAS
British Columbia Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Monday, November 1, 1999

Vancouver -- Nadia Hama, the mother accused of tossing her little girl with Down syndrome off a suspension bridge, took her two children out trick or treating last night.

In her first interview since the incident six weeks ago, Ms. Hama told The Globe and Mail yesterday she loves her 18-month-old daughter Kaya and five-year-old son Jovan more than anything else in the world, and that she searched throughout Vancouver to find them the perfect outfits: a little angel costume for Kaya, with a crown and wings, and a Spiderman costume for Jovan.

She unequivocally denied the allegation by police that she tried to kill Kaya on Sept. 22 by dropping her over a metre-high railing along the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. "It was a horrible accident and I'll answer you and the world," she insisted.
In a three-hour meeting, Ms. Hama said: "I would never throw my daughter off that bridge, and I will never harm my children."

She also insisted that numerous media accounts of events on that Wednesday afternoon -- as well as many reports about her life before and after the fall -- have been seriously distorted and, in several instances, are completely wrong.

Among the inaccuracies, she said, is that she has married five times. Ms. Hama said that in fact she has been formally married only twice, and she was never married to a Montreal man who said he brought her to Canada.

Ms. Hama said she had six miscarriages before having her two children and wants to be a full-time caregiver.

A social worker had suggested that she consider giving Kaya up for adoption, and her estranged husband, Kjeld Werbes, also urged her to look at adoption, but she never seriously thought about doing it, she said.

She said since Kaya was born, she has gone with her two children to Syria twice. "If, God forbid, I want to hurt my child, I have been abroad many times. Why would I go in front of 200 people and do something horrible like this?"

Kaya survived a 45-metre fall off the bridge without serious injury. Ms. Hama said she is speaking out now because she wants her side of the story to be told.

The interview took place in her upscale Vancouver condominium.

Her willingness to talk comes a few days after she failed to regain custody of her children, who were taken away from her after Kaya fell off the bridge.

Under current arrangements, Ms. Hama can be with her children 12 hours a week. Her husband has the children on alternate weekends and Wednesday evening. Jovan and Kaya are officially in the custody of the Ministry for Children and Families, and Mr. Werbes's brother and sister-in-law are caring for them.

Ms. Hama has previously said she twisted her ankle and slipped on the bridge, losing her grip on Kaya. She was holding Kaya with her right hand on her right shoulder and holding on to her son with her other hand.

The day of the fall began uneventfully. The family had oatmeal for breakfast. As at every other meal in their home, Ms. Hama, Jovan and Kaya touched fingertips before eating and said, "Love forever."

Under custody arrangements, Mr. Werbes was to pick up the children at 6 p.m. After a day of errands, Ms. Hama said, she still had a few hours before he was to arrive and she decided to take the children to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

"We were having a wonderful day," she said. "I was a happy mother. I was having a great day with my kids. We were singing . . . It was beautiful," she said, quickly adding, "it was horrible what it turned out to be."

She added that she often takes the children to various attractions in the region. She had gone to the bridge with the children on a previous occasion, a few months earlier.

Jovan had been scared on the previous visit to the bridge, Ms. Hama said, and she thought he could conquer his fear by crossing the bridge again.

They had gone across the bridge and were returning to the car when Kaya fell over.

Police are investigating Ms. Hama on suspicion of attempted murder, and she refused to speak about the moment when Kaya went over the railing. But she was not hesitant to speak about moments after the event.

A bridge maintenance worker described her to police as going berserk during the rescue and going "stone cold" when she was told the toddler was fine. The worker said Ms. Hama remained calm from that point forward.

Ms. Hama had a different account. "When this accident happened, I ran. I was crying. I called out for help. I said, 'Please help! My daughter fell off the bridge!' "

She recalled Jovan saying, "Let's get help; let's run." A worker at the bridge assured her that help was on the way, and she went to phone Kaya's father.

Copyright © 1999 Globe Information Services