Woman jailed for abducting newborn baby two decades ago

Celeste Nurse, right, the biological mother of the kidnapped child, Zephany Nurse, embraces a family member after the court proceedings. Picture: AP
Celeste Nurse, right, the biological mother of the kidnapped child, Zephany Nurse, embraces a family member after the court proceedings. Picture: AP
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A South African woman who kidnapped a newborn nearly two decades ago from a hospital and raised the girl as her own has been sentenced to ten years in jail.

Judge John Hlophe in Cape Town announced the sentence, telling the 52-year-old convicted kidnapper that she had caused “immense” pain to the biological parents whose baby was taken from them.

Publicly, the young woman who was snatched as a baby is known as Zephany Nurse, the name given to her by her biological parents and used in the media in the years since her disappearance.

After she was found, the girl chose to continue using the name given to her by the woman who grabbed her. To protect her privacy, a judge ordered that her adopted name and the name of her kidnapper not be used by the media.

Judge Hlophe criticised the abductor for sticking to her story that she had bought the baby girl from a woman who told her that the biological parents did not want the child.

“At the very least, one would expect you to apologise, but you chose not to,” he said.

The family of the convicted kidnapper blew kisses to her as she was led to a holding cell after the sentencing. A confrontation reportedly took place between the kidnapper’s family and Miss Nurse’s biological family outside the courthouse.

“She belongs to us,” said Chantall Berry, Miss Nurse’s aunt. “She has our DNA. Her DNA will never change.”

Miss Nurse was reunited last year with her biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse, after the couple’s second daughter became friends with a girl at school who looked remarkably like her.

A police investigation and DNA tests showed that the two girls were sisters and that the new friend was the Nurse’s missing child.

Miss Nurse’s biological parents were in court for the sentencing, but their daughter was not.

Miss Nurse has not been allowed contact with the convicted kidnapper but has been living with the her husband, who she thought was her biological father.

State prosecutors said the kidnapper snatched a three-day-old baby from her sleeping mother’s hospital bedside in Cape Town in April 1997.

The prosecution also said the woman defrauded authorities when she registered the child as her own daughter in 2003 under a false birth date.