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Wednesday, September 29, 1999Police suspect mother threw baby off bridge
Court documents allege woman didn't want disabled child
National Post, with files from Trude Huebner
VANCOUVER - The RCMP suspects Nadia Hama tried to kill her baby, Kaya Hama-Werbes, by deliberately dropping the 17-month-old girl off the Capilano Suspension Bridge last week, according to court documents.
Police believe Ms. Hama didn't want Kaya because the baby suffers from Down's syndrome and was hard to care for.
They say Ms. Hama has made several attempts to have the baby adopted, that she recently left the infant in a car in a Vancouver parking lot, and that just before the incident she was carrying Kaya "like a sack of potatoes" dangerously close to the bridge's safety fence.
The police suspicions are outlined in court documents filed to obtain a search warrant, which state that investigators have "reasonable grounds for believing that an offence, namely attempted murder," took place on the bridge while shocked tourists and the girl's five-year-old brother, Jovan, looked on. Police say Jovan was heard yelling, "My sister, my sister," after the baby fell.
Ms. Hama has said she stumbled and dropped the baby by accident.
But Corporal Edward Brian Warzel, of the North Vancouver RCMP, wrote in the application for a warrant that statements by witnesses and Ms. Hama's behaviour led police to believe the baby was thrown over the side.
The behaviour included a call she allegedly made on her cellphone to her estranged husband.
The RCMP searched Ms. Hama's home on Friday, looking for a diary and computer equipment that they allege will show she was attempting to give Kaya up for adoption.
Cpl. Warzel wrote that the incident at the Capilano Suspension Bridge last Wednesday happened after Ms. Hama had "spent the day running errands."
The bridge, which spans a dizzying river canyon, has a protective wire fence across its length, and there are numerous signs that warn about leaning over the edge.
The safety fence, police say, was level with Ms. Hama's underarm.
Cpl. Warzel stated: "Nadia crossed the bridge ... while she held Jovan's hand in her left hand. Kaya was carried high on her mother's right shoulder similar in fashion to a person who would carry a 'sack of potatoes.'
"As a result of Kaya Hama-Werbes' disability her motor skills and strength are seriously under-developed. She cannot walk, stand or crawl and is unable to verbally communicate.
"Anastasia Roberts and Gordon Jackson were tourists in the area who saw Nadia Hama near the centre of the bridge when suddenly they saw Kaya Hama-Werbes falling from the bridge. Roberts and Jackson were taking photographs at the time and were able to provide these photographs to police. A photograph shows Nadia Hama carrying the child high on her shoulder. A second photograph shows the child gone and [Ms. Hama's] right arm directing toward the railing.
"Witnesses at the scene state that Hama ran toward the foot of the bridge distraught and yelling for assistance. Jovan Hama-Werbes was heard yelling 'My sister, my sister.' "
Cpl. Warzel says that Michael Andrew Hay, a bridge maintenance worker who ran to help, "stated that he found the mother's behaviour very strange."
The court documents allege Ms. Hama at first went "berserk" while rescue workers scrambled to get ropes down to the child.
"Hay states that when they reached the child he could hear the child's cries on his portable radio. Hay was told that the toddler was fine. Hay stated that he told the mother this and she immediately stopped crying and her face went 'stone cold.' The emotion stopped and Nadia Hama remained calm from that point forward.''
Cpl. Warzel also said that a check of Ms. Hama's cellphone record shows she called her estranged husband, Kjeld Werbes, immediately after the incident.
Mr. Werbes called police.
"Mr. Werbes, who is in the process of divorcing his wife, stated that he had just spoken to his wife. Mr. Werbes told police that his wife had thrown Kaya off the Capilano bridge," Cpl. Warzel said.
He wrote that police arrested Ms. Hama at the bridge because of statements from witnesses, "and the inappropriate manner in which Nadia Hama was acting."
Cpl. Warzel said Ms. Hama gave conflicting statements to police
"The suspect was interviewed at the detachment," Cpl. Warzel said. "The consistency of her story changed several times. Nadia Hama told police at the scene that the child fell off her arm. She told police at the detachment that her ankle buckled and she fell toward the railing. She also stated that she could not recall what happened. Subsequently Nadia Hama appeared to be more concerned about her divorce proceedings than the prognosis of her child. Nadia Hama denied to police investigators that she never wanted her child Kaya and that she ever made any inquiries looking for adoption arrangements for her. Police interviewers were able to get Nadia Hama to admit that she'd made some adoption inquiries over her home computer e-mail with a woman in the United States.
"[The] police investigation has also revealed that Nadia Hama was traumatized by the birth of Kaya Hama-Werbes as a result of her Down's syndrome. Nadia Hama was treated for depression. Police records indicate that on Dec. 10, 1998, Nadia Hama left Kaya Hama-Werbes in her vehicle in a Vancouver parking lot for at least 20 minutes while she met with her lawyer. Police attended and warned Nadia Hama at that time."
No charges have been brought against Ms. Hama.
Meanwhile, the British Columbia Ministry for Children and Families is expected to be in family court today, in a "routine presentation hearing" concerning the custody of the two children.
Both Kaya, who was released from Children's Hospital after being treated for cuts and bruises, and her brother, Jovan, are in the temporary care of Debbie and Jan Werbes, Mr. Werbes' brother.
"The whole Werbes family is very close; it's an incredibly warm and loving family," Debbie Werbes said.
She said the 53-year-old securities lawyer was shocked by last week's incident. "He's pretty devastated," she said. "This is an atrocity -- it's terrible," she said of the fall.
Ms. Werbes said she's amazed Kaya survived without any major injuries. "The baby is doing fantastic," she said. "She's playing patty-cake and cooing."
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