Woman who gave birth in Walmart said she didn't know she was pregnant

The woman at the centre of a child abandonment case in Prince Albert told RCMP she did not realize she was pregnant, according to evidence heard Tuesday in a Prince Albert court.

Mother has since regularly visited child, born in 2007

The woman at the centre of a child abandonment case in Prince Albert, Sask., told RCMP she did not realize she was pregnant, according to court evidence heard Tuesday.

April Halkett, 22, is accused of giving birth in a washroom in a Walmart store in the northern Saskatchewan city in May 2007 and abandoning the baby in a toilet bowl. 

On Tuesday, a taped RCMP interview with Halkett was reviewed in the Prince Albert court.

The police interview took place four days after the birth.

Initially, the identity of the mother was not known. However, as the police investigation proceeded — including the release of store surveillance video — Halkett identified herself as the mother.

In the tape, Halkett told police that she felt sick on the day in question and was experiencing cramps and a fever.

She also told police that she did not think she was pregnant, as she had done three home pregnancy tests and they all came back negative.  She took the pregnancy tests after she started to gain weight.

She also said that she never felt the baby move inside her until that day. On the tape, Halkett told police that when she got to the Walmart store in Prince Albert, she needed to go to the bathroom. She did and the baby came out almost immediately.

"I used the bathroom," she said. "When I went the baby came out and I was so scared."

Halkett went on to describe the condition of the child. "He wasn't moving or nothing. He was so blue. I was so scared."

When people knocked on the stall door, she said she told them she was fine. She said she said that because she was scared. Then, she said, she left.

"I washed the blood off my hands and then I ran out of there," she said.

About midway through the interview, Halkett asked the officer about the child.

"What's going to happen to my baby?" she said. The officer responded that the child had been in hospital and was under the care of the provincial Social Services Ministry.

"Am I able to see him?" Halkett asked.

"That's a tough question for me to answer," the officer replied, adding that he did not know.

In regular contact

The infant was eventually placed in the care of a northern Saskatchewan child welfare agency.

On Tuesday, the judge hearing the case was told that Halkett is in regular contact with the child.

Ken Charlette, Halkett's stepfather, told the court about the current situation involving visits. Some elements of his testimony cannot be reported because of a publication ban protecting the identity of the child.

Charlette said Halkett is allowed to visit the boy a few times each week.

"The bond between the mother and child is there," he said. "She cares a lot about him, and he knows who his mother is."

Charlette also testified that he had noticed Halkett had gained weight in the weeks prior to the birth and thought she might be expecting. However, he said Halkett denied she was carrying a child.

"I asked her straight out, 'Are you pregnant?' She said, 'No,' " Charlette told the court.

Charlette said that following the police interview, he took Halkett to hospital, where she was put in intensive care. She had lost a lot of blood, he told the court, and had developed an infection and had pneumonia.

While at the hospital, the family got to visit the new baby, Charlette said.

"We wanted to see the baby right away."

Also testifying on Tuesday was Ayaz Ramji, the first doctor to examine the newborn at the hospital. He told the court that the baby was about one month premature and weighed just over six pounds.

The boy was cold and needed help breathing but survived.

Court has also heard that Halkett had a miscarriage before becoming pregnant with the child she delivered in the washroom, and has since given birth to another baby boy.

A criminal conviction for abandoning a child carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

With files from The Canadian Press