Cape Town - “That is the woman that tried to take my baby,” Shireen Piet said, pointing to the Lavender Hill woman on trial for kidnapping baby Zephany Nurse from Groote Schuur Hospital 19 years ago.
Testifying in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, Piet said: “The woman I spoke to that day has a short fringe but it was frayed. She had clean skin. She was a coloured woman with lighter (brown) skin than me.”
Piet was the State’s fourth witness in the case against a 51-year-old woman who allegedly snatched Zephany from her cot on April 30, 1997 – just two days after she was born.
Zephany’s story came to light after her biological father, Morné Nurse, found her last year.
In a strange twist of fate the girl, who was 17 at the time, enrolled in the same high school as her younger biological sister.
Piet, who was in the same maternity ward as Zephany’s biological mother, Celeste Nurse, testified that the woman who attempted to abduct her newborn daughter was the same woman on trial for Zephany’s kidnapping. The woman cannot be named to protect Zephany’s true identity.
The 51-year-old woman pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections of the Children’s Act on Tuesday. Piet said she gave birth to her daughter on April 28, 1997 and was recovering from a C-section in a ward she shared with several other mothers.
She explained that the woman appeared to be heavily pregnant.
The woman apparently befriended her and other mothers in the ward to gain access to their children.
Piet said she spent time with the woman for two days prior to Zephany’s kidnapping.
Piet’s testimony about the events of April 30, 1997, corroborated the woman’s plea explanation in which she spoke of the trauma she experienced after several miscarriages and the boy she raised as her own.
“(The accused) said she had a 10-year-old boy. She said she tried for 18 years to get pregnant. Her first pregnancy was a miscarriage,” Piet testified.
She recalled the day Zephany was taken. She also said the woman tried to snatch her baby while she was making a phone call at a phone booth 9m away from the maternity ward. “She said the child was crying. I took the child and looked at her, she did not look like she was crying,” Piet said.
Piet testified that the woman acted suspiciously and did not want to be noticed.
Piet also verified Morné’s version of events, saying she met the grieving father on the day of the kidnapping and only last year got in touch with him after he sent her a picture of the accused.
The defence denied the accused was in the hospital at the time of Zephany’s disappearance.
In a video of an identity parade that took place at Bellville police station in February, Piet positively identified the woman out of 11 others as the allegedkidnapper.
A fifth State witness, nurse Gertrude Hansloo, also placed a woman with maroon pants and a cream top (a nurse’s uniform), at the maternity ward on April 30, 1997 shortly before Zephany was snatched.
In Celeste’s testimony on Tuesday, she said a woman in a nurse’s uniform removed her baby from her cot while she was heavily medicated.
She said the next thing she remembered was being woken by a nurse asking her where her baby was.
The accused is out on bail. The State and prosecution will call several more witnesses today.