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Canadian Children's Rights Council - Conseil canadien des droits des enfants

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Toronto Star Newspaper
Canada's largest newspaper

Moms and murder in spotlight

Toronto Star Newspaper and other TORSTAR newspapers, page A12, Jan. 9, 2005, by DEIRDRE HEALEY, TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE, Guelph Mercury newspaper

GUELPH — It is believed nothing is stronger than the bond between a mother and her child.

So what would push a woman to kill her own young?

"Mothers will kill their own children for a number of reasons," said Dr. Donna Stewart, University of Toronto psychiatry professor and chair of Women's Health at Toronto Hospital. "Concealing a pregnancy, a fit of rage, a lack of a strong bond or sometimes depression."

The subject of desperate mothers is once again in the news after a 24-year-old Guelph woman was charged Thursday with killing her two infant sons in 1998 and 2002 after police received new information last week. The woman also has two other children.

Guelph Police and Waterloo Regional Police re-opened the two unsolved sudden-death cases a week ago and charged the young mother with two counts of first-degree murder.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the woman cannot be identified since one of the infant deaths happened while the mother was 17.

The first infant was 7 weeks old when he was found dead at the mother's Guelph home in September, 1998. In December, 2002, while the mother was living in Kitchener, the second infant, who was nine weeks old, was found dead in her home. The two babies had different fathers.

Initial investigations determined both infants died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The term applies to babies who have died in their sleep for unexplained reasons.

While there is no one driving force leading mothers to kill their own, Stewart said young moms are Read More .. at risk. "Younger mothers are more likely to kill their own children as a way of concealing the fact that they are pregnant."

She said young mothers also have a higher risk of suffering from postpartum depression, which can include crying, insomnia and mood swings.

"Postpartum depression is the one reason that is the most understanding," said Stewart. "It is still hard for people to believe that a mother in her right mind would kill her own child."

It is thought that Andrea Labbe, who stabbed and killed her husband and three-year-old daughter in their Toronto home in early December before killing herself, was suffering from postpartum depression.