Zephany Nurse baby snatcher jailed for ten years
15 August 2016 • 2:44pm
A South African woman who kidnapped a newborn baby from her sleeping mother’s arms in hospital almost two decades ago has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a judge who told her she “betrayed and lied to” the child.
Judge John Hlophe, sitting at Cape Town’s high court, told the 52-year-old woman – who cannot be named to protect the adopted identity of her victim – that her actions had caused “so much harm” to the child’s biological family.
Celeste and Morne Nurse and their other children celebrated their lost child’s birthday with a cake each year and made regular media appeals in a bid to find her.
She was eventually discovered after her younger sister started at her school in February last year and classmates noticed the resemblance. The family called in the police who conducted a DNA test and determined that they girls were indeed sisters.
Celeste Nurse, the biological mother of Zephany Nurse, reacts after the woman who kidnapped her baby Zephany in 1997 was sentenced to ten years imprisonment Credit: REUTERS
T he Nurse family hailed the discovery as a “dream come true” but their relationship with their newfound daughter has soured amid intense public interest in the case dubbed South Africa’s Madeleine McCann, after the three-year-old British child who disappeared from a family holiday in Portugal.
Zephany has opted to live with her naturalised father and gave evidence behind closed doors in mitigation of her abductor’s sentence. She is now understood to be expecting a child of her own.
The woman claimed during her trial that she was given the baby in an informal adoption and had been “tricked” into accepting the abducted child. No-one believes me at this moment and I’m a victim myself, she said in an interview shortly before her conviction.
Judge Hlope dismissed the account as a “fairytale” and told the woman her sentence was stiffer because she had refused to admit the truth or show remorse.
Morne Nurse C the biological father of Zephany Nurse Credit: Getty
“You had all the opportunity in the world to return the child,” he told the seamstress, who raised Zephany in a township outside Cape Town. “Year in and year out, the parents marked the birthday and made the event public and there was wide publicity.
“There is no way you did not know that this was their child, but you decided to keep her anyway.
It is very clear you have caused so much harm to the Nurse family. Something you should not be proud of.
T here were gasps in court as the sentence was read out, and tears from the defendant’s husband, an electrician who never knew the girl was not his daughter until the police arrested his wife. The woman told the court that before she took Zephany, she had suffered a series of miscarriages and hidden the last one four months earlier from her family.
Outside court, members of both families almost came to blows as insults were traded. The abducted child’s father, Morne Nurse, said he would have liked the sentence to be longer given the pain the defendant had caused his family.
The child’s aunt said despite the continued estrangement, Zephany “belongs to us”.
She has our DNA. Her DNA will never change,” said Chantall Barry.