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Woman who gave birth to twins in park had mental health issues, police say

Oppenheimer Park now sits empty after all the residents and their tents were removed in the morning on August 15, 2008.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

The woman who gave birth to twins in East Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park had mental health issues and police had to use force to remove the babies from her grip, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said Friday.

Chief Chu said he provided the update to inform the public there was a "sad" element to the story, which had generally been reported to have a "happy outcome."

The 33-year-old woman went into labour late Wednesday night in the Downtown Eastside park. A citizen flagged the attention of police officers, already in the area to assist with the emergency demolition of a building, who assisted the woman and passed the babies on to paramedics, police said on Thursday.

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But on Friday, Chief Chu said when police attended, the woman was holding one of the babies "very tightly, by the neck and the head; the legs were dangling." She refused assistance and "screamed" at police to get away, Chief Chu said.

"When the officers said, 'Are you giving birth to a second baby?' she said 'No, get away from me,'" he continued. "She then paused for a moment and a second baby appeared."

The woman held the second baby in the same way she held the first, which prompted officers to use force.

"The officers moved in. Two of them stood behind her and held her arms, grabbed her fingers," Chief Chu said. "Two other officers moved in from the front and put their hands underneath the mother and scooped up the babies and were able to grab the babies as the mother's grip was released from the babies' heads."

The mother was taken to hospital under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act. Police turned the twins over to the Ministry of Children and Family Development under the Child, Family and Community Service Act.

Police wanted to check legal and ethical grounds before providing this additional information, Chief Chu said.

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Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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