Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brenda Waudby: (3); Her extraordinary address to the Court;

Publisher's note: One of the most dramatic moments at today's hearing was Brenda Waudby's request to address the court about her 15-year ordeal. Justice Michelle Fuerst acceded to her request - even though it is not customary for a party to address the court during an appeal. Ms. Waudby then made the following presentation which clearly moved Justice Fuerst, who applauded the fact that it was so articulate. Here in its entirety is Brenda Waudby's presentation to the court - which in my own view is one of the most powerful, insightful presentations (my hardened journalist's eyes watered) I have ever heard in a court of law. (And I have heard many of them!)

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.


"Good Morning Your Honour. My name is Brenda Waudby and I am Jenna Mellor’s mother.

I almost can’t believe that this day has arrived and that I have just heard the Crown state that my plea of guilty to child abuse was a miscarriage of justice. I can’t describe the feeling that I have now as I stand before this court in the presence of my daughter Justine and the rest of my family.

Not only has the Crown offered an apology but it has been committed to righting the wrongs in my case and that has meant everything to me and to my children. I know that extraordinary effort that has been put into this appeal over many months by both my lawyer Julie Kirkpatrick and by Ms. Wheeler. Because of that effort I know that the apology offered by Ms. Wheeler on behalf of the Crown is sincere and I am prepared to accept it wholeheartedly.

On the March 1st, 2007 when Jenna’s killer was sentenced, I read a victim impact statement to the court. I would like to read a short part of that today:

“Jenna was gone forever. I could never say goodbye to her. My baby had barely started her life. She was just learning to talk. Her first word was “Mum.” I believed Jenna had great potential, but I will never know. She had a smile that would light a room. Her eyes sparkled with life. She loved me and I love her. I was to be her safety and security. I let her down. I failed her. Do you have any idea the guilt of failing your child? I was charged with murder. I pled guilty to a Child and Family Services Act charge in June of 1999. I was innocent of this charge. I understood from my lawyer that my choice was I pled guilty or fight the murder charge and the CAS put Justine up for adoption. I was terrified at the prospect of losing another child forever.”

That decision to plead guilty to save my family is the reason why I am before this court today. It worked. I did save my family. Justine is here with me in this courtroom today and I want her to know that I love her, that everything I have done I have done for her and for her younger brother, and to make sure that there is justice for Jenna. I also have wanted to do my best to make sure that my story is told, and that the record is clear, so that what has happened to me never happens to another family. That is why I am here.

There have been so many mistakes made by the justice system over the past fifteen years since Jenna’s death. I don’t know why that is so. I will never know why all of this has happened to us. But once the mistakes started – beginning with Charles Smith and the coroners’ office right after Jenna died – it was like a freight train that couldn’t be stopped.

I started to call for a public inquiry in 1999. I knew that something had gone horribly wrong with my case. And I knew that nothing that I had been told by Charles Smith, by the police, or by my own lawyers about Jenna’s death made any sense.

Even though the charge of murder had been withdrawn, I was still a suspect. I knew it was the babysitter and I started to launch complaints to everyone I could think of, hoping that someone would listen. I complained to the Police Services Board, the Board of the Kawartha Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, the Ombudsman, the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Office of the Chief Coroner, the Attorney General, the federal Justice Department, MPs and MPPS, the media.

My complaints were largely ignored, and many of the responses that I received were nothing short of condescending. People told me that I should give up and “move on” but there was something in me that could not stop. I fought this battle alone for so long and no-one was listening.

I welcomed the Goudge Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology and fully participated in it. But I also knew that the Goudge Inquiry could not do everything to set things right in my case and that my fight was not over.

At the end of the Goudge Inquiry I was still a convicted child abuser, with the question remaining as to whether Jenna had suffered older injuries to her ribs and to her liver and whether I was responsible. That is why I brought this appeal. It is the last step for me in clearing my name.

I was pleased, but not surprised, when Dr. Milroy confirmed for this appeal that none of Jenna’s injuries were old. I always knew what the answer to that question would be. I knew that I didn’t harm Jenna and I knew that the only reason I pled guilty to the charge of child abuse was because I believed that I had no choice.

The consequence of my plea of guilty to child abuse, however, was enormous – not only legally, but privately. Because of that conviction I was not able to have my young son in my care until he was almost one year old. The Children’s Aid Society entered Jenna’s autopsy photographs into evidence before the family court and I was repeatedly accused of causing the injuries that were evident on her body. She was beaten black and blue. She was sexually assaulted. It didn’t matter how often I said that I didn’t , and couldn’t have, done that to her, very few people would believe me. The only person who I know truly believed me, without question, was my mother and it breaks my heart that she did not live to see this day. I wish that she was here with me.

When the babysitter was finally charged and then convicted in Jenna’s death, I was still left with the child abuse conviction. I asserted my innocence in court at his sentencing hearing and no-one reacted. I think they should have. I did not see the babysitter’s 2005 confession until I launched this appeal although many others in the justice system had.

The full confession has now been filed by Crown counsel Alison Wheeler as part of the public record in this appeal and I am grateful for that. As hard as it has been to read, the truth of what happened to Jenna is in that babysitters’ confession and it is the only thing about my case that has made any sense to me at all.

I also had the opportunity last week to meet with the expert pathologist Dr. Christopher Milroy to discuss what happened to Jenna. The time and care was taken with me during that meeting set many things in my mind to rest. Dr. Milroy told me that there is absolutely nothing in the medical evidence that has changed in Jenna’s case since the date of her death 1997. It’s not a question of having to search for the truth these past 15 years. The truth was there. Charles Smith got it all wrong.

This appeal has been a lengthy process but as a result of the work that has been done I know that I have received all of the information that I have requested, and I truly believe that all of the questions that can be answered at this point have been answered.

We are all human and we all make mistakes. I have made many mistakes and I have had to learn to live with the biggest mistake of my life – leaving Jenna with my neighbours to babysit on January 21st, 1997 and returning home to find sirens in my driveway and my baby dead in the hospital morgue. Somehow the fourteen-year-old boy was able to sexually assault and beat my baby to death while his mother was upstairs and nobody at the time believed that was possible. They thought it must have been me. I live my life wishing I could turn back the clock and that I had stayed home that night. But I didn’t, and I have had to learn to live with that.

Because I have had to learn to live with the horror of what happened to Jenna, I know that I have become far stronger than I ever knew I could be, more determined to seek truth, more committed to seeing that justice is done, and I hope, more understanding of others, less judgmental, and more determined to be kind and to choose to forgive whenever possible.

I am truly grateful to my lawyer Julie Kirkpatrick for listening to me, for believing me, and for working so hard on my behalf in this appeal to see that justice is done.

I knew that if I didn’t give up that this day would come. I am proud of myself that I never ever gave up no matter how alone I was or how dim the light looked ahead of me. My beautiful children have made it worth the fight and, because of me, they know that anything is possible if you believe deeply in finding the truth.
Your Honour, thank you for giving me the time today to say the things that I have needed to say for a long time. I very much appreciate that. Thank you."


I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.