A Toronto nurse has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a gravely ill newborn.

Police arrested Gita Proudman, an employee of the obstetrics ward of Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital, on July 6 and released her on bail July 14. Her bail conditions are subject to a publication ban.

Newborn infant Mustafa Dehzad was born in the hospital on June 10 with severe physical deformities. Doctors did not expect him to live.

Two days later, under what hospital officials describe as suspicious circumstances, Mustafa died of asphyxiation.

The coroner’s autopsy revealed that someone had suffocated the child, by covering his mouth and nose.

About 100 supporters greeted Proudman the day of her release to wish her well. In attendance were co-workers, family, friends, and nursing students from the University of Toronto. They wore purple ribbons to show their solidarity with Proudman.

“We were devastated. That’s not her,” long-time friend Pat Ferreira was quoted as saying in The Toronto Star.

“I think in times like this, when people are in times of anxiety, we will support them,” said Fr. Michel Dumont of St. Rose of Lima Church, where Proudman was married.

‘Very complex’

Proudman’s lawyer, John Norris, asked people not to predict the outcome of the trial too hastily.

“This case is very complex,” Norris said.

The case will begin with a preliminary hearing to be held March 22, 1999. Norris expects that the trial may last up to two years.

Mustafa was the first child of Abdullah and Maeema Dehzad. The Dehzads, who are originally from Afghanistan, married two years ago. They have indicated in interviews that they loved their son, and would never have done anything to “hasten” his death.