Vancouver police say a woman accused of murdering her two infant sons over a period of more than a year concealed the second pregnancy from her family and from police investigating her.
Sarah Leung was under investigation for the murder of one infant son when she became pregnant with a second son she is also accused of murdering.
Vancouver police on Wednesday announced two charges of second-degree murder against the 24-year-old East Vancouver woman, and had to explain how they missed the fact that the subject of a major investigation had become pregnant again while under police scrutiny.
Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke told a news conference that if police had known about the suspect's medical condition, they would have worked with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to figure out what to do.
"But the problem was no one knew," Deputy Chief Lemcke said. "The ministry didn't know. We didn't know. That makes it extremely difficult. We all hear of cases where women have hidden pregnancies from families.
"This is not an isolated incident where they hide the pregnancy. It happens all the time."
Not even her family knew, he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the case as the whole situation is now before the courts.
Deputy Chief Lemcke said the case had been especially trying. "Few incidents are more tragic than the death of a child but when that death is allegedly at the hands of the mother, it is unimaginable. And when it is two children, it is incomprehensible."
In April, 2009, the body of an infant boy was found wrapped in a plastic bag in a yard between a pair of houses in East Vancouver. The infant's mother was questioned, but no charges were laid.
In March of this year, Vancouver police said they believed the mother of the first child had given birth to another child, but that the child was no longer alive. Police say the second child was a boy, and that his remains have never been found.
"The B.C. Coroners Service and other experts were consulted along the way to help determine if the recovery of the second infant from a landfill gravesite was even feasible, but it was not, as so much time had passed," he said.
Police allege that the infants were murdered after birth and discarded.
Ms. Leung surrendered to police on Tuesday after learning of the pending charges, he said. She made an appearance in provincial court Wednesday, but was remanded in custody until June 16.
In an interview, Ms. Leung's lawyer said he could not talk about particulars of the case or say whether his client will plead not guilty.
"There's been no decisions made at all about that. It's far too early. This case, in terms of her involvement with the courts and lawyers, started in the last 24 hours, so it's too early for decisions like that to be made," Jim Bahen said.
Deputy Chief Lemcke said he was not sure if the two infants - one born on April 2, 2009, and the second on March 7 of this year - had the same father, but that one man deemed a father in the case was not involved in the incidents.
He declined to comment on possible motive or on many aspects of the case, declaring that the investigation is ongoing.
And he rejected a reporter's suggestion that investigators might have cut Ms. Leung some slack due to such factors as postpartum depression. "Any thought about cutting slack? That wasn't there."
Instead he said police conducted a long, challenging investigation in the case that involved processing crime scenes, submitting evidence statements and dealing with the Crown. "This does take time."
There was no one home at Ms. Leung's East Vancouver home Wednesday. But the case was the talk of the neighbourhood as residents remembered the horrific discovery, which brought police to their quiet street.
"It's been on our minds, and there's other families in the area that are having children so it's worrisome," said Laurence Verkyl, out for a walk with his partner, Alison Frost, and their infant daughter. "It's a hard thing to live with, but we've lived with it so it's kind of gotten normal."
Ms. Frost said the whole matter had its unsettling elements. Both said they had seen Ms. Leung's family around, but had no substantial contact with them.