South Africa baby snatcher said’I’m not sorry’ as judge denounces ‘lies’
South African woman found convicted of plundering three-day-old Zephany Nurse and raising her as her own; two families lived within miles of each other for 18 years until coincidence brought them back together.A South African seamstress has been found convicted of snatching a three-day old baby from her mother’s side in hospital 18 years ago.
The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, said before her conviction that loved the girl and “will always be her mother”.“I love her and if she wants me, I will always be in her life. I will always be her mother,” she said.Judge John Hlope, sitting at Cape Town’s high court, told the woman that he had “listened to her lies for days” about how she was given the baby in an informal adoption arrangement with a woman she barely knew, and never realised she was abducted.”You must have been the person who removed the child from hospital,” he said. “Your story, if anything, is a fairy tale and the court rejects it with the contempt it deserves.”
Judge Hlope said he found the state witnesses, who told the court they saw the woman at the hospital and that she had tried unsuccessfully to take another child. “trustworthy”, and found the woman guilty on three counts of kidnapping, fraud and contravening child protection laws.The girl’s biological mother, Celeste Nurse, 36, sobbed loudly as the guilty verdicts were handed down as people in the public gallery chanted: “Yes! Yes!”The 51-year-old woman was denied bail and taken into custody ahead of sentencing on May 30. She was told by the judge she faces 10 years imprisonment.
The disappearance of Zephany Nurse, as her birth parents named her, from Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on April 30 1997 made headlines around the world. Every year, her parents celebrated her birthday with a cake and a fresh media appeal for help in finding her.She was reunited with her biological family by astonishing coincidence in February last year after her younger sister started at her school and classmates noticed the striking resemblance between them.Cassidy Nurse, 14, told her parents about the older girl and they invited her home for tea. On meeting her, they contacted the police, who confirmed the girl’s identity through DNA tests.
Speaking after the verdict, Zephany’s cousin, Asante Booysen, said they were “very happy and satisfied”. “As we always knew, God had his plan,” she said. “He knew why we had to wait nearly 20 years for all this to happen. We always believed she was alive and there was a God that would help us. It’s been a lot of hurt and sadness but at the end of the day, joy will come.”In a plea statement read to the opening of her trial at Cape Town’s high court last week, the accused said her own mother had abandoned her with her six younger siblings at the age of 12, that she endured years of abuse at the hands of her first husband and lost her first child at the age of six weeks before suffering three miscarriages, the most recent four months before she took Zephany.A post on the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s website detailing Zephany’s dissapearance
In an interview given outside court shortly before she was found convicted and her bail was quashed , she maintained her innocence and said she was “not sorry” for the way she acquired the child.“The Lord knows why He placed her in my arms,” she told South Africa’s News24 website. “I thank Him for the 17 years and 10 months I had with her. She brought me so much joy. I will never forget it.”She said her only regret was not telling the child she was not her biological mother.“I’m not sorry I took her when the woman handed her over that day,” she said. “What I am sorry for is that she found out about it this way. I love her and if she wants me, I will always be in her life. I will always be her mother.”
Reports suggest that the girl continues to live with her kidnapper’s husband, whom she considers to be her father, who said she had wished the defendant luck and told her she loved her before the judgement.“She is strong,” he said. “We joke and laugh. But I don’t know how she feels when she is on her own. I am worried about her.”He said he had incited her to get to know her real parents. “We don’t want to stand in the way of that,” he said.“I am sorry for what they have been through,” his wife added. “I am pleased they found her. She is a wonderful child. I am proud of how she turned out.”Zephany’s biological father, Morne Nurse, said that he and his wife had “a bit of contact still” with Zephany, but would not comment further.