Police allege baby was thrown off bridge
Affidavit cites mother's 'strange' behaviourROD MICKLEBURGH and ROBERT MATAS
British Columbia Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, September 29, 1999
Vancouver -- Police say there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that a baby's 45-metre plunge from a high suspension bridge was an attempt by her mother to kill the child.
The suspicion is contained in search warrant material used by police to justify their raid of the mother's home last Friday, two days after the baby's fall and miraculous survival.
The mother, Nadia Hama, has not been charged in the incident, although she remains under police investigation.
She told police that the child fell from her arms when her ankle buckled and she fell toward the Capilano Suspension Bridge's 1.2-metre-high railing.
The affidavit containing search warrant information indicates what police believe and why they feel a warrant is necessary to continue their investigation.
The affidavit, which was sworn by RCMP Corporal Edward Brian Warzel of the North Vancouver detachment before a justice of the peace who granted the warrant, is not legal proof of any misdeeds.
The search warrant material contains numerous dramatic allegations, including assertions that the child's father was told by Ms. Hama almost immediately after the incident that she had thrown the baby, who has Down syndrome, off the bridge.
In the search warrant information, police also describe what a witness called "very strange" behaviour by Ms. Hama after she learned that her baby, Kaya Hama-Werbes, had been found alive on a rocky ledge below the suspension bridge.
Until then, according to a bridge maintenance worker at the scene, Ms. Hama had being going "berserk" as rescuers inched down the steep canyon toward her baby.
But when she was told that Kaya seemed, against all odds, to be okay, "she immediately stopped crying and her face went stone cold. The emotion stopped and Nadia Hama remained calm from that point," police said in the search warrant document.
For more than 18 months before the incident, Ms. Hama had been involved in a series of bitter legal quarrels with her estranged husband, Kjeld Werbes, a Vancouver securities lawyer. Mr. Werbes, 53, was born in Denmark and Ms. Hama, 39, was born in Syria of Palestinian parents.
According to the search warrant, Ms. Hama was traumatized by the fact that Kaya has Down syndrome. She had been treated for depression.
At one point, it said, she discussed with a U.S. woman the possibility of having the child adopted after putting out E-mail inquiries through her computer.
The mother made several other attempts to put Kaya up for adoption, according to the search warrant information. "The mother complained to Social Services that the child was difficult to care for," the information added.
Earlier court records show that Ms. Hama lost the 20-hours-a-week home care she had been provided by a government agency for reasons that remain unclear.
Last December, the warrant said, Ms. Hama left Kaya unattended in her parked car for at least 20 minutes while she met with her lawyer.
"Police attended and warned Nadia Hama at that time," the warrant information said.
Neither of Ms. Hama's lawyers returned telephone calls yesterday, after the disclosure of the RCMP's search warrant. Ms. Hama did not respond to a call.
Last week, lawyer Manuel Azevedo accused police of psychologically torturing Ms. Hama, hinting that she might press civil charges against them.
Ms. Hama was taken into custody shortly after her baby's fall last Wednesday evening and held for 23 hours before being released without charge. A Crown prosecutor decided at the time that there was not enough evidence to arrest the 38-year-old woman.
During subsequent questioning at North Vancouver RCMP headquarters, the warrant said, "Hama appeared to be more concerned about her divorce proceedings than the prognosis of her child."
Mr. Werbes was found in contempt of court in June for failing to abide by previous court orders to provide maintenance payments to his wife.
Both Kaya and her brother, Jovan, who is almost 5, are being cared for by Mr. Werbes's brother, Jan, and his wife, Debbie.
Jovan was with his mother, holding her left hand, when Kaya tumbled over the edge.
The police document provides a brief but graphic description of the immediate aftermath of Kaya's plunge.
"Witnesses at the scene state that Hama ran towards the foot of the bridge distraught and yelling for assistance. Jovan Hama-Werbes was heard yelling: 'My sister. My sister.' Maintenance staff at the bridge launched a rescue attempt. The child had plummeted approximately 200 feet to the rocks below," the document said.
It goes on to reveal that a check of Ms. Hama's cellphone record indicated that she called her husband immediately after the incident.
Mr. Werbes was the first to phone 911, informing police that a baby had gone over the bridge.
The police information added that Ms. Hama had spent the day running errands with her two children before arriving at the Capilano Suspension Bridge about 4:40 in the afternoon.
A hearing is set for today on whether the children should continue as wards of the Ministry for Children and Families, which has placed them with the Werbes family. Debbie Werbes said yesterday the two are "really both doing well."
Neither Kjeld Werbes nor his estranged wife has spoken publicly about last Wednesday's incident.
Information to obtain a search warrant
Where it appears on the oath of Corporal Edward Brian WARZEL, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in the City of North Vancouver, in the Province of British Columbia, a Peace Officer, that there are reasonable grounds for believing that an offence, namely, attempted murder: that on September 22nd, 1999 at approximately 1730 hours, at or near North Vancouver, British Columbia Nadia HAMA did attempt to murder to wit: Kaya HAMA-WERBES, contrary to Section 239 of the Criminal Code of Canada. . . .
1. The informant is a police officer and, as such, has personal knowledge of the matters hereinafter described, save and except where stated to be based on information and belief, in which case he believes them to be true.
2. On September 22nd, 1999 Nadia HAMA spent the day running errands with her two children Kaya HAMA-WERBES and Jovan HAMA-WERBES. Jovan HAMA-WERBES is 5 years old. Kaya HAMA-WERBES is 17 months old and is handicapped with Down's Syndrome.
3. At 1640 hours that afternoon, Nadia HAMA went with the children to the Capilano Suspension bridge located in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Capilano Suspension bridge is a foot bridge which has protective wire fence 4 feet high or in this case almost level with Nadia HAMA's underarm. At the foot of the bridge and in various other locations there are warning signs which warn of the dangers associated with crossing the bridge. Nadia crossed the bridge shortly thereafter 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."
4. As a result of Kaya HAMA-WERBES' disability, her motor skills and strength are seriously under developed. She can not walk, stand, or crawl, and is unable to verbally communicate.
5. 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 WERBES's right arm directing towards the railing.
6. Witnesses at the scene state that HAMA ran towards the foot of the bridge distraught and yelling for assistance. Jovan HAMA-WERBES was heard yelling, "My sister. My sister." Maintenance staff at the bridge launched a rescue attempt. The child had plummeted approximately 200 feet to the rocks below.
7. Michael Andrew HAY, who is a maintenance worker at the bridge, stated that he found the mother's behaviour very strange. HAY described the woman as going "beserk" [sic] while his fellow workers lowered ropes to the child's location. 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.
8. A check of Nadia HAMA's cell telephone tolls indicates that immediately after the incident she called her husband Kjeld WERBES and advised him of the incident.
9. At 1730 hours North Vancouver Detachment received several telephone calls from Capilano Suspension bridge advising of the incident. One of the telephone calls was from Kjeld WERBES. Mr. WERBES, who is the process of divorcing his wife, stated he had just spoken to his wife. Mr. WERBES told police that his wife had thrown Kaya off the Capilano Bridge.
10. North Vancouver RCMP members attended the Capilano Suspension bridge and interviewed the employees, witnesses, and Nadia HAMA. As a result of those interviews and the inappropriate manner in which Nadia HAMA was acting, police arrested her and transported her to North Vancouver Detachment.
11. Kaya HAMA-WERBES was transported to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The child suffered only minor injuries such as scratches and bruises. The fact that she survived at all is best described as miraculous.
12. The suspect was interviewed at the detachment. 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 towards 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 had made some adoption inquiries over her home computer E-mail with a woman in the United States.
13. Subsequent investigation has revealed that Nadia HAMA made several attempts to put Kaya HAMA-WERBES up for adoption. The mother complained to Social Services that the child was difficult to care for.
14. 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 indicated that on December 10th, 1998 Nadia HAMA left Kaya HAMA-WERBES in her vehicle in a Vancouver parking lot for at least 20 minutes while she met her lawyer. Police attended and warned Nadia HAMA at the time.
15. Kjeld WERBES told police that his wife keeps a diary in Arabic at her home . . .
16. A search warrant is requested to attend Nadia HAMA's residence to conduct a search for evidence pertaining to this offence. It is believed the items being sought will provide police with the necessary evidence to address the issue of motive for this crime.
Copyright © 1999 Globe Information Services