Mother of child 'M' beaten and starved to death apologizes

The Edmonton mother who admits she physically abused and starved her twin girls has publicly apologized. The little girl known as ‘M’ died in September 2012 after she was removed from life-support.

'I am sorry. I feel great remorse .... I love my children,' says mother of 'M'

The mother of child 'M' was the subject of a sentencing hearing Tuesday at the Edmonton courthouse. (CBC)

The Edmonton mother who admits she physically abused and starved her twin girls apologized in an Edmonton courtroom on Tuesday.

The little girl known as "M" died in September 2012 after she was removed from life-support.

The surviving twin and her older brother are now cared for by private guardians.

At the end of the mother's sentencing hearing on Tuesday, the 37-year-old stood and addressed the court.

"It's easy for anybody to say I'm sorry. But today I'm stating my sorrow. I am sorry. I feel great remorse .... I love my children," she said in Arabic that was translated into English.

"After all this, my kids represent everything to me. I always wanted them to be the best they could be," she said.

Yet the court documents tell a different story at the time the girls were admitted to hospital and she and her husband were under investigation by police.

Court documents released today state M’s mother has never shown remorse for the actions that led directly to her daughter’s death, nor any interest in her surviving daughter’s well-being.

Woman alone at home with children

A pre-sentencing report compiled earlier this year described the woman as depressed, lonely and helpless.

With her husband working night shifts, she stayed alone at home taking care of the couple’s children.

"She indicates that she had very few to no social supports and that she was feeling depressed, alone and she could not count on anyone for assistance," reads the report written by probation officer Breanna Musslewhite.

The woman had attended university in her home country for six years studying communications and French before immigrating to Canada with her husband, states a psychiatric report written in January 2015.

The daughters were born in 2011.

"When she saw her twins initially however, she described that they did not look healthy," the psychiatric report said. "She described feeling as though they weren’t really a ‘person’ at first."

The twins were seen by a pediatrician on a regular basis until they were 13 months old, said the report.

On their last two visits, the pediatrician expressed concern about the apparent drop of weight or lack of weight gain.

"The pediatrician never saw the twins again after that date," said the report.

Early on May 25, 2012, the woman’s husband called 911 from work, saying his wife had called him to tell him M was not breathing.

First responders found the two-year-old twin girls "very skinny," both with head injuries.

The bedroom shared by the twins was found with a mattress on the floor but no toys. The bedroom shared by the woman, her husband and their son contained mattresses and toys.

Both reports stated the woman was evasive with police about the girls' injuries.

'Showed no remorse,' police said

At the time of her arrest, police said "she denied all culpability, accepted no accountability and showed no remorse the physical injuries inflicted on her twin babies or the role that she played in the starvation of her daughters," the pre-sentencing report said.

Initially she denied hurting her daughters, claiming "her daughters’ extensive physical injuries and brain trauma were sustained from bedbugs, an outcome of playing with the heat register or sustained as a result of being too physically active."

While in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, the woman was visited by case workers from Children and Family Services, the pre-sentencing report said.

"During these visits, they claim [she] never once asked for an update on her daughter’s circumstance and was only interested in knowing how her son was doing. They state they did not observe a bond, either physical or emotional, between [the woman] and her daughters."

The lawyer representing the mother, Daryl Royer, told the court her client understands she will likely never see her children again, and may never see her husband again, adding that the guilty plea also means she’s not likely to have more children.

At this point the mother doubled over in the prisoner’s box, brought her head to her knees and reached for a tissue to wipe her eyes. 

The judge will hand down his sentence on Friday morning.

The prosecutor is asking for a 23- to 25-year sentence.

Royer said case law suggests a range between 7½ to 16 years. 

with files from the CBC's Janice Johnston