Man, 45, accused of poisoning tots’ cereal now charged with murder, attempted murder

Sun sources claim the suspect is the ex-boyfriend of the surviving tot’s mom

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A 45-year-old man is now accused of murdering three-year-old Bernice Nantanda Wamala and trying to kill her best friend by poisoning the cereal the girls ate at a sleepover in Scarborough a few months ago.

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Toronto Police allege the accused — identified by Sun sources as the ex-boyfriend of the surviving tot’s mom — “accessed a controlled substance” from his work and put it into a package of cereal.

The two girls ate the Golden Morn breakfast cereal on the morning of March 7 after their sleepover.

Bernice, who lived with her mom in a highrise on Birchmount Rd., south of St. Clair Ave. E., and had slept over at her best friend’s apartment in the same building, became severely ill.

The little girl began having seizures, then her fingers, toes, and lips turned grey — symptoms of methemoglobinemia, a condition that occurs when the body is deprived of oxygen.

  1. Bernice Nantanda Wamala, 3, became ill the morning on Sunday, March 7, 2021, after a sleepover at her best friend's Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived.

    Man, 45, accused of poisoning two Scarborough tots

  2. Bernice Nantanda Wamala, 3, became ill the morning on Sunday, March 7, 2021, after a sleepover at her best friend's Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital.

    ‘SHE’S DYING, PLEASE HELP!’: Tot dies, best friend severely ill after sleepover

  3. Bernice Nantanda Wamala is seen here with her mom Maurine Mirembe. The three-year-old girl became ill on Sunday, March 7, 2021 after a sleepover at her best friendÕs Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived.

    Unravelling the mysterious death of three-year-old Scarborough girl

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Within a few hours, Bernice was dead at Michael Garron Hospital.

Her best friend recovered after a lengthy stay at Sick Kids hospital.

A source told the Sun the “controlled substance” was nitrite — a preservative used in cured meats and other foods.

Overexposure to nitrites can lead to methemoglobinemia.

Bernice Nantanda Wamala, 3, became ill the morning on Sunday, March 7, 2021, after a sleepover at her best friendÕs Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived. Tests are being conducted on a breakfast cereal the girls both ate, Golden Morn, to see if that is what made them sick.
Bernice Nantanda Wamala, 3, became ill the morning on Sunday, March 7, 2021, after a sleepover at her best friend’s Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived. Photo by Supplied /Maurine Mirembe

An investigation by police and the Ontario Coroner’s Office led to the arrest of Francis Ngugi on June 19.

The suspect was initially charged with two counts each of administering a noxious substance to endanger life and unlawfully causing bodily harm, and one count of criminal negligence causing death.

But Homicide detectives have since taken over the case and when Ngugi appeared in a Scarborough courtroom on Wednesday his charges were upgraded to one count each of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Bernice Nantanda Wamala is seen here with her mom Maurine Mirembe. The three-year-old girl became ill on Sunday, March 7, 2021 after a sleepover at her best friendÕs Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived.
Bernice Nantanda Wamala is seen here with her mom Maurine Mirembe. The three-year-old girl became ill on Sunday, March 7, 2021 after a sleepover at her best friendÕs Scarborough apartment and died a few hours later in hospital. Her three-year-old friend also got sick but survived. Photo by Supplied /Maurine Mirembe

Police have not commented on a possible motive for the alleged poisoning.

Ngugi remains in custody.

cdoucette@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @sundoucette

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