Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Children dead, mom missing

Tragedy shatters St. James neighbourhood

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Two children were found unresponsive in a bathtub at 3 Coleridge Park Dr. on Wednesday morning. Their mother Lisa Gibson, below, with daughter Anna, was missing. Authorities searched throughout the day.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Two children were found unresponsive in a bathtub at 3 Coleridge Park Dr. on Wednesday morning. Their mother Lisa Gibson, below, with daughter Anna, was missing. Authorities searched throughout the day. Photo Store

From the outside, the two-storey white house with the landscaped shrubs, neat front lawn and pretty blue trim looked like it was straight out of Mayberry -- a quiet, happy home for a young couple and their two children.

But inside, something was amiss in the Westwood home.

Neighbours said there were signs of trouble even before the harrowing discovery, then the confirmation from police that the two young children who lived in the home on Coleridge Park Drive had died.

The children, a three-month-old boy and two-year-old girl, were found in the bathroom tub.

They weren't breathing.

Const. Eric Hofley, spokesman for the Winnipeg Police Service, said the children were taken to hospital in critical condition but did not survive.

He wouldn't confirm how the children died.

"This is a tragic, tragic incident," said Hofley.

"Our thoughts are with the family... for friends, for emergency personnel that deal with these sorts of things. All these people will have to move on and our thoughts are with those people."

All day and into the evening, police conducted a massive search for their mother, Lisa Gibson.

She is 32, described as 5-5, having a slim build and short strawberry-blond hair.

There were few details on where she was last seen, police said.

Gibson, who worked at Grace Hospital before going on maternity leave, and her husband Brian Gibson, an electrician, had two children, Anna and Nicholas.

Police rushed to the house shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday for what they said was a "well-being" call.

Multiple sources told the Free Press a 911 hang-up call alerted them to a potential problem.

Brian Gibson was at work Wednesday morning when police notified him of the situation.

There were unconfirmed reports of Gibson pushing an empty baby stroller down Portage Avenue and officers also looked for her at a nearby Tim Hortons. She was believed to be wearing pyjamas.

Police paid special attention to bodies of water in the city as they searched for the woman. Her home is close to the Assiniboine River.

Despite reported sightings throughout the day, as evening began, police reported no trace of the missing woman.

Gibson's Facebook page had pictures of her two children, Anna and Nicholas. Much of the information on the page was taken down by mid-afternoon.

Coleridge Park Drive, where it curves to hug the banks of the Assiniboine River and loops up to Bedson Street, is tight, the kind of place where neighbours move in and stay for years, get to know each other and watch each other's homes when they go on vacation.

The family had lived 18 months in the house and neighbours said they saw the husband more than the wife. They described the little girl as bright and beautiful.

This summer there were signs of strain, neighbours said.

Lately, an older woman was always seen at the home with the young mother, who never seemed to be alone with her baby and active toddler anymore.

"She was always with an older woman. The baby would be right beside her and the little girl would be running around," said neighbour Rosie Olivera of a familiar scene each day that included the mom sitting on the front steps.

"She'd just be staring at you," said Olivera, describing a flat gaze that made her uneasy every time she passed the corner.

"I'd be at the stop sign and she'd be staring at me. I thought it was kind of weird."

"Some of the neighbours are saying the mother was depressed and it was her husband's mom or her mom who would stay with her. The first thing you think about is postpartum depression but stuff like that doesn't happen here," said neighbour Blair Duncan.

Neighbour Randy Pittner said one of his neighbours ran into his yard yelling about a woman Wednesday morning just as Pittner was leashing up his dog for a run.

"That's how I found out someone in the house had called 911," Pittner said.

Pittner said his neighbour ran up to him and asked, "Did you see any lady run through your yard?"

Pittner said he thought at first it was a joke.

He grabbed his dog and his bike and searched nearby parks on Assiniboine Street, while his neighbour searched the riverbank farther up Coleridge.

"I was out searching for her," Pittner said.

But it started to rain and he saw no sign of a woman on the riverbank.

Pittner said on his way back, he saw the husband outside the house, then he saw the husband's parents. They were escorted into police cruisers and driven away. Pittner said he saw paramedics with ventilators rush into the house.

It's believed the grandmother discovered the children in the bathtub and the mother gone from the home.

"We're all rattled as parents, as human beings... but that's irrelevant.

"The real issue is there are two little kids who aren't here anymore. There should be better outreach for someone in that situation," Pittner said.

Throughout the day, Gibson was the subject of a major search involving up to 20 police units from both city police and the RCMP, sources say. A police K-9 unit was also on the scene, focusing mostly on the riverbank.

The city fire department searched the Assiniboine River.

A property search indicates the couple has lived in the home since 2011, which supports information from a neighbour suggesting the couple moved in 18 months ago.

 

-- with files from Mike McIntyre and Martin Cash

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:26 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video

11:28 AM: adds update July 25 video

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