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Stolen baby found – 17 years later

Cape Town - An astonishing coincidence has led to the discovery of Zephany Nurse – stolen from her mother’s arms in Groote Schuur Hospital as a newborn 17 years ago.

A DNA test has confirmed that Zephany, now in matric at a Cape Town school, is the daughter of Celeste and Morné Nurse, who lost their three-day-old daughter when she was snatched from her sleeping mother’s arms in her hospital bed in April 1997.

Celeste Nurse in hospital with Zephany before she was abducted. Credit: SUPPLIED

Now a 50-year-old woman has been arrested by the Hawks. She is to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Celeste and Morné Nurse, who went on to have three more children, have celebrated Zephany’s birthday every year since, never giving up hope that their first-born would come back to them someday.

Zephany grew up with a different name, and a different family, never knowing she was not their real daughter. But last month her biological sister, Cassidy Nurse, started Grade 8 at the same school that Zephany attended, and fellow pupils noticed a startling resemblance she bore to a matric pupil.

When Cassidy told her parents about the matric girl, hope began to strengthen in their hearts after 17 long years.

The Nurses invited the matric girl for a cup of coffee, under the pretence that they wanted to meet Cassidy’s friend. When they too saw the striking similarities between the girls, Morné Nurse contacted the police.

Soon the Hawks were involved, questioning the girl’s parents and taking DNA samples.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut confirmed on Thursday night that a woman, 50, had been arrested.

The woman and her husband, in his fiftiess, have no other children.

“The suspect is being charged with kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections 32 (4) (a) and (b) of the Children’s Act – in that she fraudulently pretended that she was the biological mother of a child,” Traut said. “The kidnapped girl has since been placed in the care of the Department of Social Services of the Western Cape Government.”

Without knowing it, Celeste and Morné Nurse had been living within a couple of kilometres of their daughter.

Since the day in 1997 when Celeste was dozing peacefully in Groote Schuur’s maternity ward, only to wake up and find her first-born baby had been snatched, the Nurses have had three other children: Cassidy, Joshua and Micah.

As the years went by they celebrated Zephany’s birthday on April 28 each year, often with a giant cake sponsored by Pick n Pay. And they kept searching.

In a 2010 interview with the Weekend Argus, Morné Nurse said he was still holding out for his lost daughter.

“I’ll never, ever give up hope. I can feel it in my gut – my daughter is out there and she is going to come home.”

But last night, he was not willing to speak to the media as the family met to decide the way forward now that Zephany had been found and her future thrown into turmoil.

“We have no closure here,” he said.

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