Zephany Nurse was kidnapped nearly 20 years ago by an unidentified South African woman. The woman, whose identity is not being revealed due to privacy concerns, was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison. Only a few days after Zephany Nurse was born at a South African hospital in 1997, the now-52-year-old woman from Cape Town, South Africa, allegedly snatched the baby straight from the mother’s hospital bed, according to the Associated Press. The kidnapper has denied having any involvement with the disappearance of Zephany Nurse even after she was found guilty by the Cape Town High Court back in March.
Celeste Nurse gave birth to Zephany at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on April 28, 1997, and continued to celebrate Zephany’s birthday every year for the 17 years she remained missing. Celeste recalls the day that Zephany was taken, saying that she remembered that a person dressed in a nurse’s uniform entered her room and comforted her minutes before she dozed off. She awoke to another nurse asking her where her baby was. Zephany Nurse had been sleeping in a cot next to her mother’s bedside but was not there when Celeste woke. Morne Nurse, Zephany’s father, said in an interview in 2010 that “they would never give up hope of finding their daughter.”
Apparently, only a few items were found by police at the hospital, including a baby garment, handbag, and pillow, but nothing that could lead them to who kidnapped Zephany Nurse. Five days after Zephany was born, Celeste and Morne went home without their daughter and with no idea who had snatched her. Celeste believes the kidnapper went to the hospital to kidnap any baby, and she didn’t care which one.
“Her intention was to steal a child. She didn’t care which child it was.”
Celeste Nurse went on to say that “they came home to nothing,” but they continued to celebrate the birth of their missing daughter every April 28 for the 17 years she remained missing. By coincidence, Zephany Nurse was found at a Cape Town school that the couple’s other daughter, 13-year-old Cassidy Nurse, had been attending. According to the Inquisitr, other children at the school noticed a resemblance between Zephany and Cassidy, which led to a DNA test that confirmed the 17-year-old girl’s identity. Zephany’s kidnapper was traced to a home in Lavender Hill where she lived with her husband and no other children.
On February 26, 2015, police arrested the 51-year-old South African woman, and Zephany was put under the care of the Western Cape social services department, where she remained when her kidnapper was found guilty in March. Judge President John Hlophe with the Western Cape High Court criticized the woman for making up a false story about how she had obtained the child. According to the Times Live, the kidnapper claimed she had paid money for the baby to a woman named “Sylvia” who said the mother was not interested in keeping the child and wanted to give her up for adoption. However, the kidnapper did admit to misleading her husband and family and registering Zephany Nurse as her own child in 2003.
Zephany Nurse, who was given another unknown first name after she was kidnapped, reportedly wished her kidnapper “good luck” and told her she “loved her” before the court proceedings back in March. Zephany’s biological parents, Celeste and Morne, were present in court on Monday for the sentencing, but Zephany, who’s since been denied contact with the convicted kidnapper, was not. Judge John Hlophe announced a 10-year sentence for the kidnapper, saying she had caused “immense pain” to Celeste and Morne for nearly two decades.
“At the very least, one would expect you to apologize, but you chose not to.”
The kidnapper said during a plea explanation in March that she had tried several times to conceive, went through a number of miscarriages, and in her “desperation” to adopt, decided to take baby Zephany Nurse instead. She went on to say that Zephany was a “joy” for her and that she doesn’t regret taking the baby.
Zephany Nurse decided to keep the name her kidnapper gave her and remains under the custody of social services with limited visitation from her biological parents.
[Photo by Schalk van Zuydam/AP Images]