Zephany's biological mother Celeste Nurse, left, and the woman convicted of kidnapping her.
Zephany's biological mother Celeste Nurse, left, and the woman convicted of kidnapping her.

Zephany: one of the most complex trials I ever covered

By OPINION Time of article published Aug 16, 2016

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For court reporter Gadeeja Abbas, the Zephany Nurse trial was rooted in the pain of a kidnapped girl and the two mothers who love her.

Cape Town - The Zephany Nurse trial was not black and white. Rather, it was one of the most complex trials I have ever covered.

The trial was rooted in the pain of a woman whose baby was snatched from her arms while she was sleeping, and another, who was so desperate to transfer the love she had for her miscarried children, that she took a newborn.

The woman convicted of kidnapping Zephany from Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997 has accepted her punishment by not appealing her conviction or sentence.

Her only regret is she will not be there for the child she raised as her own for 17 years.

The Lavender Hill seamstress has repeatedly insisted a woman she met, while undergoing gynaecological problems, handed her the newborn under false pretences.

Why she did not contact the police in an attempt to return the child can be understood in some ways. However, that does not mean her actions should be accepted.

It was revealed during the trial the woman had raised her younger siblings when her mother abandoned them.

Her struggle to carry a child to full term and her desperation to solidify the marriage to her husband were also motivating factors that could have convinced her to take the secret to her grave.

In some ways, Zephany’s biological mother Celeste Nurse and the 52 year-old woman who raised her, are similar in the sense that the cause of their pain was their love for Zephany.

It could also be argued the woman who deprived Celeste from having a relationship with her biological child was the cause of their strained relationship since they were reunited.

But many behind-the-scenes events have indicated the relationship may be strained due to Celeste having the impossible task of forgiving the baby snatcher.

The seamstress whom I have met on many occasions is a gentle woman whose smile is a mechanism she uses to cope with the effects of her actions as they unfolded.

What struck me about Celeste was her silent strength.

Morne had more of a hardline approach while the man who helped raise Zephany was unmoved in his commitment and support for Zephany and his wife.

The depths of of the emotions in this case is something that could not be resolved in the two years since the woman was arrested. It will probably take decades to come to terms with the trauma caused to both sides.

What was evident throughout the dramatic events was that Zephany, who had in two years gained another mother, needs a motherly figure now that the woman who raised her has been sent to jail for 10 years, while the woman who gave birth to her seems like a stranger.

Cape Argus

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