Mother testifies in baby death trial

The mother of a seven-week-old baby who died over two years ago testified Wednesday in Halifax at the manslaughter trial of her former partner.
Jane Gomes, centre, arrives at court in Halifax on Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The mother of a seven-week-old baby who died over two years ago testified Wednesday in Halifax at the manslaughter trial of her former partner.

Jane Gomes told a judge-only trial that her former partner, 25-year-old Ashiqur Rahman, violently pulled her hair in an argument on their first day home after giving birth to their daughter, Aurora Breakthrough.

Rahman is charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault in Aurora's death in July 2009.

Gomes, 24, pleaded guilty earlier this year to failing to provide the necessities of life in connection with the baby's death. She received a conditional discharge with six months of probation.

Gomes — who was brought up in Dhaka, Bangladesh — told the court that the couple had an argument after bringing their baby home from the IWK Health Centre.

The hospital had told the cash-strapped couple that their hospital bill was $6,000. They did not have medical coverage.

Gomes said Rahman was brooding over that bill. She, in turn, was upset about the chaotic state of their apartment — an attic in a Halifax rooming house on Gottingen Street. Gomes said criticized Rahman.

"He suddenly got angry and he lost his temper," she told Crown prosecutor Denise Smith.

"He pulled my hair with his right hand. He said I was arguing too much."

Gomes said she was shocked and feared he would continue to physically abuse her.

"I said, 'You stopped because I was pregnant all this time and now that I have [the baby] you think you can do it again to me,'" she testified.

Gomes said as time went on, Rahman became frustrated with their crying newborn. She said her former partner blamed her for not feeding the baby properly and called her stupid.

Rahman showed little emotion as he watched his ex testify against him.

Parents met at Acadia University

Earlier on Wednesday, Gomes gave a detailed reconstruction of how she came to Canada and how she met Rahman when she was in her third year Acadia University in January 2008. She told the court they became friends and fell in love.

"It felt wonderful," she said.

"I loved him and I thought we would be together forever."

Gomes said by March 2008, Rahman moved into the boarding house where Gomes was living. By May of that year, they moved into their own Wolfville apartment.

Gomes told the court that she kept her relationship with Rahman secret from her family. She went to an all-girls Catholic school and had no exposure to boys growing up.

She said her father was strict, saying, "Dad was less than gentle with my mom. He was very strict about things."

Gomes said her contact with her family via computer became less frequent during her relationship with Rahman. She told the court he didn't like her staying in touch with them.

By September, the couple dropped out of school and moved to Halifax, where Rahman wanted to start a business. Gomes said she didn't agree with his plan.

"I tried to tell him that I don't think it's the right thing to do. But he wouldn't listen to me," she said.

"That day, later, we had a fight about it and Ashiqur actually hit me."

Gomes said her partner's business ideas changed, from a computer video game project to an online shopping business. She testified she disagreed with him on what direction their life together should take.

"I felt like it was out of control," she told the court.

"Didn't know how to put it back together. You can feel when something is not going right."

Aurora Breakthrough's birth

Gomes said she stopped taking birth control pills in August 2008 and realized she was pregnant in January 2009, after she'd missed a few cycles.

She testified that she kept the pregnancy a secret from her family, although Rahman told his family in May, about a month before the baby was born.

Aurora Breakthrough was born June 6, 2009. She died at the IWK Health Centre in July.

Their daughter's birth was described as a moment of joy amidst growing troubles for the couple, as Rahman's attempts to start an online business failed to bring income into the household.

"I breastfed her and that's the most exciting moment of my life," Gomes said, breaking down and crying on the stand.

"She was really tiny, very beautiful. Just seeing her made me feel so strong and no matter what the other issues were in that time in our life, I felt we could do it."

Gomes told the court that while Rahman helped change the baby and occasionally picked her up, he was more preoccupied with attempting to start his computer business.

"Ashiqur seemed to love her," she said.

"He would make comments on how cute she was and sometimes pick her up, but still his central focus was on his work.

"Sometimes I would see the father, the dad, in him. But the joy of being a parent, that was somehow missing."

A neuropathologist testified earlier in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial that the baby had extensive brain injuries.

Earlier testimony indicated that Aurora also had broken bones that were most likely caused by being grabbed, yanked and squeezed, and retinal hemorrhages consistent with head trauma.

Don Murray, Rahman's lawyer, is expected to cross-examine Gomes later this week.

"We're not unsympathetic to all the emotions that arise in this kind of circumstance and so we'll deal with it in the time that it takes," he said Wednesday.

With files from The Canadian Press