Vancouver Sun

Wednesday 14 March 2001

I believe Hama intended to drop baby off bridge, husband tells judge

Nadia Hama 'was a woman capable of anything,' estranged husband tells child custody hearing

Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun files / Nadia Hama (left) and Kjeld Werbes are involved in a custody battle. She wants $79,000 a year in spousal and child support.

Vancouver Sun files / Nadia Hama (left) and Kjeld Werbes are involved in a custody battle. She wants $79,000 a year in spousal and child support.

Kjeld Werbes said Tuesday he believes his estranged wife Nadia Hama deliberately dropped their 18-month-old daughter off the Capilano Suspension Bridge on Sept. 22, 1999.

He believes that now more than ever, Werbes told a B.C. Supreme Court judge who is trying to determine who should get custody of the couple's two children, now aged two and six.

"I believed she was a woman capable of anything," said Werbes, a 54-year-old Vancouver securities lawyer.

His testimony was the first time he has spoken publicly about the incident, which police investigated as an attempted murder but never laid charges. The children were put in foster care after the incident and later returned to their mother.

Hama testified earlier that she was strolling across the cable-suspended bridge in North Vancouver while trying to get her son to stop jumping when she twisted her ankle, causing her to accidentally drop her daughter Kaya over a bridge railing.

The baby plunged 47 metres into the Capilano River canyon. She miraculously survived with only minor scrapes and bruises after tree branches apparently broke her fall.

The court has heard how Hama was carrying the baby high on her shoulder when the incident occurred. An infant development consultant testified that Hama was carrying Kaya in a proper manner because she has Down Syndrome and had poor lower-body muscle strength at the time.

Hama testified that after dropping her child, she asked someone to call 911, then called Werbes at his law office, explaining that Kaya had an accident.

After Hama's call, Werbes recalled, he immediately called 911, saying Hama had thrown Kaya off the bridge.

'"Why would you say that?'" asked Hama's lawyer, Karen Anderson.

'"Her life was out of control,'" Werbes said of his ex-wife. He pointed out Hama had had an abortion 12 days before the incident on the bridge. She had also discussed adopting out Kaya, but when Werbes opposed that idea, Hama suggested that she take their son Jovan and Werbes take Kaya.

He added that he was highly suspicious of the words Hama used when explaining " 'Kaya's had an accident.... She fell.' "

"Kaya had no use in her lower body," the father said. "How could she fall?"

Werbes said he would have felt differently if Hama had said, "I had an accident." He said Kaya couldn't even stand up, so it wasn't possible that she could fall.

When he arrived at the bridge, he thought his daughter was dead, he recalled. He was taken aside and asked to provide a police statement. He told police Hama deliberately attempted to murder Kaya. He also explained he and his wife were going through a horrible divorce.

Hama's lawyer suggested Werbes' top priority during his police interview was to ensure Hama was closely scrutinized by police.

"I was very emotional," Werbes recalled.

Hama's lawyer suggested Werbes never asked about his daughter's condition.

"Not true," he replied, saying he asked police three times. At one point, he added, police said Kaya had been found in the canyon and she was crying, which was considered a good sign.

Asked why there was no record of this on the police transcript of the taped statement, Werbes said he asked the officer while he turned over the tape and again when the tape was stopped because of interruptions by other officers.

Werbes is expected to continue under cross-examination today at the Vancouver Law Courts, where Justice Mary Ellen Boyd will determine whether it would be best for the children to live with their mother or father.

Hama, 40, is seeking the court's permission to move to Toronto with the children. She also wants the court to order Werbes to pay $79,000 a year in spousal and child support.

She is currently receiving interim support payments of about $3,000 a month from Werbes, who is also paying Hama's mortgage and all household expenses. Werbes wants the children to remain in Vancouver and is seeking custody.

Werbes takes the position that he shouldn't have to pay spousal support because of a pre-nuptial agreement signed when the couple married in Las Vegas in November 1996.

Hama says she signed under duress so the agreement shouldn't be binding on her.

The two separated on Feb. 1, 1998, about two months before Kaya was born.

Hama, who is originally from Syria, has been married five times. But she says three involved traditional Arabic marriage contracts that never proceeded to a marriage ceremony.

A psychologist testified earlier that Hama gets involved in relationships for her own personal gain and sees her children as pawns in a game.