When their baby girl was stolen from her sleeping mother’s arms seventeen years ago, parents Celeste and Morne Nurse had many days, nights, and years of unbelievable horror: Who had taken their beautiful newborn, Zephany? Was she cared for, was she even alive? The years wore on and the case grew cold, but the icy fear of the unknown gripped the hearts of the baby’s family.
Imagine their surprise when students at a Cape Town secondary school noticed that their daughter bore a striking resemblance to another girl at the school, so uncanny that they could be sisters: because they were. The girl was their missing daughter.
The unnamed woman who is accused of the kidnapping is a seamstress whose own child was stillborn at some point before she took Zephany. She was granted bail on Friday until the case resumes on May 29, and so far, Zephany has refused to make any statement against her.
The girl’s biological parents have shown relief and forgiveness — her biological mother said she would like to “thank” the woman for taking such good care of her, and her father said that all of his dreams came true when he heard his child was alive.
“The only hope I had came alive. I’m very happy, extremely happy. My daughter is alive.”
Social workers have confirmed that Zephany is struggling with the separation from the only mother she has ever known, her kidnapper, who she has no hope of seeing until court reconvenes. Per court recommendation, she has had short visits with her biological parents but is staying in a care home, and says she is very grateful for all the positive thoughts and prayers that have come her way.
“I want to say thank you to all the people who supported me through this, for continuously praying and never giving up on looking for me. Under the circumstances I am doing fine.”
As hard as Zephany Nurse’s situation may be, it is easy to understand why her parents are so relieved instead of angry regarding the circumstances of her kidnapping. In South Africa, kindapping is a serious problem that usually results in babies been sold on the black market, raised to be militia fighters, or sold into sex slavery. Zephany’s is an unusual circumstance of kidnapping for the area, but likely no less heart-breaking for the teenager as she comes to accept that everything she believed to be true about her family, life, and heritage were lies.