A woman accused of snatching a newborn baby from a Quebec hospital is in a psychiatric ward, where doctors will evaluate her fitness to face justice.
Valérie Poulin Collins, 21, appeared in court on Thursday afternoon in Trois-Rivières, Que., to face charges of kidnapping and abduction of a person under 14 after a 16-hour-old baby named Victoria was taken from a maternity ward in the city on Monday night.
The girl’s mother said a woman posing as a nurse came into her room and took away the baby, saying she needed to be weighed.
Three hours later, after an Amber Alert and the rapid spread of the news through social media, amateur sleuths tracked down the baby and her alleged abductor at an apartment near the hospital. Police kicked down the door, arrested a woman and returned the baby unharmed to her parents.
Before the judge ordered the psychiatric evaluation, defence lawyer Karine Bussières said Ms. Poulin Collins is unable to communicate properly. Courtroom observers described her as appearing tired and pale.
“Our clients have to be able to help us prepare their defence, and for now, I’m not able to have a rational discussion with her,” Ms. Bussières told reporters outside the courtroom. “For the moment, she’s not really in a condition to appear in court.”
Ms. Poulin Collins was in intensive care after the Monday-night abduction. A Quebec prosecutor described her on Wednesday as “unconscious and intubated,” but the information was apparently out of date. She was released from hospital on Wednesday night and taken to police cells, where investigators attempted to question her.
The Quebec prosecutor’s office does not have a direct role in how Ms. Poulin Collins is treated or detained, and does not get minute-by-minute health updates, according to spokesman Jean-Pascal Boucher.
“Her condition improved enough that she is here today. Now we’ll wait to see what conclusions doctors reach,” he said.
Ms. Poulin Collins, who friends described as having mental health issues, will be examined at Ste-Thérèse hospital in Shawinigan. She is scheduled to appear in court again next Thursday.
The parents of baby Victoria were in court to watch proceedings.
They told reporters baby is doing fine.