Cape Town - A family who experienced the same baby kidnapping nightmare as the parents of Zephany Nurse can breathe easy today.
On Sunday evening, police confirmed their 10-day-old boy, who had been snatched from Worcester Hospital last Thursday, has been found.
Two suspects, aged 17 and 42, were arrested in Ashton – about 60km away – and will appear in court on Tuesday on charges of abduction.
On Sunday night, newborn Sergio Strydom was taken to hospital to be examined, before being returned to his grateful family.
The family’s 70-hour ordeal began last Thursday when the baby boy was snatched from the maternity ward at about 8pm during visiting hours.
The kidnapper managed to smuggle little Sergio – who was wearing a blue crawler and was wrapped in a yellow and blue fleece blanket – past his mother Juanita Muller, 29, and at least two security guards.
Police are in possession of video footage showing a woman leaving the hospital with the baby and meeting two people who were waiting outside.
The boy’s grandmother Sergrai Petersen, 53, was shown the video and took a photo of the footage, which she shared with the Daily Voice.
The abduction bore shocking similarities to that of the Zephany Nurse case, in which a newborn was also kidnapped by a strange woman from a hospital – shortly after her mom Celeste Nurse gave birth to her in 1997.
Zephany was reunited with her family on 25 February last year.
Ironically, Sergio was snatched on the same day, one year later.
Zephany’s alleged kidnapper, a 51-year-old woman who raised her as her own child, is currently on trial in the Western Cape High Court.
Juanita explains last Thursday, a strange woman came into her room and started asking her questions, while Sergio’s dad, Gerald Strydom, was in the toilet.
The mother of four says the woman, who looked to be in her early 20s, wore a grey Adidas T-shirt, tracksuit pants and slippers.
The well-spoken woman was described as tall with a brown complexion, “black hair neatly pinned up, not fat, with big ears and a high forehead”.
She introduced herself as “Stephanie”, and said she had just been discharged after being treated for a miscarriage.
“She asked me whether we were on MXit. We said no and she asked my boyfriend, who was out of the toilet by then, whether she could hold the baby. He said ‘No, it’s a newborn,’” said Juanita.
“She [Stephanie] said she was from Ashton and wrote her name and number on a piece of paper saying we must visit each other.
“When we said we are from Roodeval, she said, ‘No, it’s too rough [there]’.
“When Gerald was gone, she asked me whether she could take the baby to show her mother who was across the way, and I said ‘no’.
“[But] when I turned around, I saw her leaving with the child.”
Juanita says she could not follow the snatcher because she had been instructed to remain in her room, as she is suffering from tuberculosis.
“I asked a nurse who came past if she had seen the woman and she said it was best to call the police,” she said.
But by then it was too late.
They tried calling the number the woman had given her “but the phone was just off”.
Juanita gave birth to her fourth baby Sergio prematurely on February 15.
She had been admitted a week earlier, due to it being high-risk pregnancy, and was put in a private room to keep her isolated from other patients.
On Sunday night, police would not confirm if the woman in the video was one of the suspects.
Worcester SAPS spokesperson Lindi Mkontwana said: “At about 5.30pm, two suspects aged17 and 42 were arrested in Ashton in connection with the abduction of a 10-day-old baby reported as abducted from Worcester Hospital on February 25.
“The baby will be taken to hospital for further examination.
“Two suspects are expected to appear in Worcester Magistrate’s Court on March 1 facing charges of abduction.”
On Sunday night, Sergio’s aunt Jessica Majekelo told Daily Voice: “Ons is opgewonde en bly. Ons het nie die woorde nie. [We are excited and overjoyed. We’re speechless.]”