National Post

Page URL:

Saturday, September 25, 1999

Police search home of mother after baby's fall
Vancouver condo: Infant not seriously hurt despite 47-metre drop
Mark Hume
National Post

Chung Chow, National Post
RCMP arrive at the Vancouver home of Nadia Hama just after noon yesterday to begin a search. Police have said the search is part of an investigation to determine how Hama's baby fell from the Capilano Suspension Bridge. (Caption appeared in the all but Toronto version.)

Chung Chow, National Post
Nadia Hama arrives at her Vancouver condo in her Mercedes. RCMP conducted a search of her home yesterday in an investigation to determine if Hama's baby's fall from the Capilano Suspension Bridge on Wednesday was accidental or not.

VANCOUVER - RCMP officers searched the house of the mother whose baby survived a 47-metre fall from North Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge, one day after they released the woman without charges.

Police held Nadia Hama for questioning after her 18-month-old baby, Kaya, fell from the bridge on Wednesday. She was released after being detained overnight.

Several police officers were waiting at Ms. Hama's house -- a $460,000 condo on Vancouver's fashionable west side --when she arrived home in her Mercedes yesterday.

RCMP Sergeant Rod Booth said police are conducting a criminal investigation into the incident "to make a determination if it was accidental or not."

Ms. Hama's baby, who suffers from Down's syndrome, was not seriously injured despite the fall. The baby landed on a rocky ledge at the river's edge.

More details about Ms. Hama, 37, a former video store clerk, became clear yesterday. She is involved in a legal fight with her estranged husband, Kjeld Werbes, a 53-year-old securities lawyer, who is now living at home with his mother.

The couple, who along with Kaya have a five-year old boy, Jovan Farris Hama-Werbes, have been battling in court over child and spousal support payments. Two items of contention were an expensive Ferrari and a shared condo at Whistler, a popular ski resort north of Vancouver.

Ms. Hama, who went to court complaining that her husband had failed to make adequate support payments, was awarded the Ferrari at the end of May. She sold it for $65,000 and applied to courts for an order that would allow her to take the two children to Syria, from June 27 to Aug. 15. The court granted the order, with the proviso that Mr. Werbes be given the children for two weeks on her return.

Mr. Werbes was not returning calls yesterday. His mother said he was living with her in North Vancouver, but declined to discuss the matter further with a reporter.

The courts, which recently found Mr. Werbes in contempt for failing to abide by orders relating to support payments, noted that the marital dispute had put both parties under considerable stress.

"She has responsibility for their two children and yet has had to 'fight' every step of the way even though she has received favourable results in court. The consequences of not receiving what she was entitled to and the constant appearances in court have been financially and emotionally draining," noted Justice Donna Martinson, in a Supreme Court judgment issued two weeks ago.

At the same time, she stated Mr. Werbes was having his own troubles, although he had recently received $73,000 through Sebrew Investments Inc., a company in which he had an interest.

He is an officer or director of 11 public companies, but claims to be in dire financial straits.

"I can't even get relief to pay my 1997 taxes, a family debt," Mr. Werbes had told the court, in explaining why he had leased away the couple's share in the Whistler condo, despite an order forbidding him to compromise family assets.

"This was a short marriage and the court orders, by limiting his ability to use his assets, have had a 'devastating financial impact' upon him," acknowledged Judge Martinson.

She found, however, that he was not justified in failing to comply with several court orders. He was ruled in contempt of court, but a penalty has not yet been determined.

Ms. Hama and Mr. Werbes were married in November, 1996 and separated in February, 1998. They married in Las Vegas -- Ms. Hama for the fifth time, Mr. Werbes for the second.

Ten years ago, Ms. Hama was working as a clerk in a Vancouver video store. She would later marry the store owner, Majid Behjati.

Relatives of Mr. Behjati declined to talk about the marriage yesterday.

Aside from her current divorce action, Ms. Hama has been involved in other court disputes. In 1996, she sued Sefid Holdings Ltd., on behalf of Sasha Dania Behjati, a 10-year-old niece of whom she was named guardian.

Last July, she won a Supreme Court judgment that awarded her niece $60,000 to pay legal costs and establish a trust for her care.

The claim arose from lead poisoning that took place in 1990, when Sasha was one year old.

Sefid Holdings defended itself by claiming that the child's parents, Rima and Hamid Behjati, were negligent because they used a Samovar, a Russian tea urn, "for a purpose for which it was not intended or traditionally used, namely, heating water for baby formula." The Samovar was bought by the Behjatis at a North Vancouver store owned by Sefid Holdings.

The court documents do not state what harm was done to Sasha by exposure to lead, other than to say there are lead deposits in tissues of her body and there is "permanent disability."

What is clear is that Ms. Hama pursued the matter doggedly through the courts for three years, before finally winning a settlement on behalf of her niece. The settlement will provide long-term care for the child through an annuity that will make annual payments of about $25,000 for a total payment of more than $281,000 over 11 years.

Now the care of Ms. Hama's own child is being questioned by police.

Copyright Southam Inc.