Cape Town - The State has concluded its case against a Lavender Hill woman accused of kidnapping baby Zephany Nurse soon after she was born, with the child’s birth registration taking centre stage in court on Thursday.
In just three days, prosecutor Evadne Kortje completed her case after eight witnesses – including the heart-wrenching testimony of the girl’s biological parents Celeste and Morné Nurse – took the stand in the Western Cape High Court.
Zephany had spent 19 years in the care of the woman after she was snatched from Groote Schuur Hospital on April 30, 1997. The woman cannot be named to protect Zephany’s new identity.
On Thursday, Home Affairs supervisor Gerhard Kotze testified that Zephany’s new identity – given to her later – could be scrapped from the population registry depending on the outcome of the court case.
Zephany’s biological parents registered her birth at Groote Schuur 19 years ago. But the court heard on Thursday that the girl was registered with a new name in Malmesbury in March 2003.
The accused denied being in Malmesbury at the time the new birth certificate was created. However, the Home Affairs official said the certificate was posted to the woman’s address in Lavender Hill.
Her counsel, Reaz Khan, said the woman was in the vicinity to collect her brother’s death certificate in November 2003.
In the woman’s plea explanation submitted to court on Tuesday, she explained she had “received a newborn baby” from a woman called Sylvia, whom she met at Tygerberg Hospital before Zephany’s abduction.
The woman said she received documentation from Sylvia that she believed were “adoption papers”.
Kotze, who has been employed by the Department of Home Affairs for 37 years, said it was possible a person posing as the biological parents or grandparents of a child could register the infant if they had a certified copy of the parent’s ID documents, a letter from the school, a clinic card or a baptism certificate.
Another witness, Petro Coetzee of the Hawks, said the woman showed a shocking display of emotion when she was confronted by investigating officers at her home in Lavender Hill last year.
Coetzee, who had worked in the organised crime unit for 24 years, said the woman asked her that Zephany “stay with me until everything is over”.
Coetzee said the woman started crying after saying this, but also maintained she did not abduct Zephany. The woman insisted the girl was her biological daughter.
During an interview Coetzee had with the woman’s sister in February last year, she confirmed that the woman had been receiving gynaecological treatment at Groote Schuur and Victoria hospitals after suffering several miscarriages.
Coetzee revealed that the investigating officer – who was not available to testify in court after suffering a heart attack last month – showed the woman birth records from a mobile maternity unit in Retreat after she claimed to have given birth to Zephany there.
“The colonel showed records of April 1997 and her name, or her maiden name, did not appear there,” Coetzee said.
The woman, who pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections of the Children’s Act, is to testify in her own defence on Monday.