Nova Scotia

Trial in 2009 baby death begins

The trial of a Halifax man charged in the death of his baby started Monday with a nurse explaining why she called child protection services.

The trial of a Halifax man charged in the death of his baby started Monday with a nurse explaining why she called child protection services.

Ashiqur Rahman, 25, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in connection with his daughter's death in 2009.

Aurora Breakthrough was seven weeks old when she died at the IWK Health Centre.

Carmel McGinnis, a public health nurse with Capital Health, was the Crown's first witness Monday.

McGinnis said the baby was born June 6, 2009, and was small for her size. She said the baby's mother, Jane Gomes, had no prenatal care, unlike most mothers. 

She told the court that the hospital discharged the baby on June 8 because the couple didn't have medical care coverage.

No baby supplies

McGinnis visited the couple's rooming house on Gottingen Street on June 9. She said the stairs leading to their room in the attic were treacherous and no one in the building seemed to know they were living there.

McGinnis said the room looked like a storage room, with computer parts piled in the middle. There were no baby supplies, and no crib — only a mattress on the floor.

McGinnis told the court she understood the family had just moved in. At this point, she said, the baby still had no name.

McGinnis said Gomes was breast-feeding the baby and that was going well, but Rahman seemed concerned that it was taking a long time and the baby was crying a lot.

McGinnis said Rahman told her he wanted to get back to his business analyzing blood to "prolong life and end all death." Under cross-examination, she described the business as a joint enterprise.

She testified that Gomes giggled and seemed immature, but said both Gomes and Rahman were receptive to receiving more information about postnatal care.

Concerns for baby

McGinnis said she called child protection services because she was concerned about the living conditions and the couple's ability to care for the baby.

Donna Best, a social worker with the Department of Community Services, testified that she investigated the complaint. She said she consulted with the young couple who seemed open to advice. She then closed the file.

The court heard that two days later another nurse complained about the couple's care of their infant daughter. The file was not reopened.

Gomes was charged with manslaughter, but she pleaded guilty last year to a lesser charge of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Gomes is expected to testify at Rahman's trial as a condition of her plea deal.

Rahman's lawyer, Don Murray, said that manslaughter can be committed in two different ways — by an unlawful act or by criminal negligence.

"Criminal negligence can get complicated because sometimes it's something you do when it's inappropriate and it causes harm, or something that you fail to do and that caused harm," he said.

Murray said that the Crown's theory is that Rahman either assaulted the baby, or "in handling his daughter, he did it in a careless way that caused her harm. They are not suggesting that anyone else caused the child harm and that he knew about it and failed to take steps to protect [her]."