She had always wondered what her life would have been like had her daughter been kidnapped from Groote Schuur Hospital 19 years ago instead of 3-day-old Zephany Nurse.
Shireen Piet was speaking to Weekend Argus this week, shortly after testifying in the trial concerning Zephany’s alleged kidnapping, about how she recalled she had been in the same maternity unit as Zephany’s biological mother, Celeste Nurse, in April 1997 when the newborn baby went missing.
Piet said during her testimony before the Western Cape High Court that she saw the accused, who cannot be named in order to protect Zephany, picking up her own daughter in a moment when she’d turned her back to make a telephone call.
When the accused realised she had been spotted, she handed Piet’s baby to her and said the child had been crying, the court heard.
However, there were no indications the child had cried, Piet testified.
When she later discovered a child had been kidnapped at the hospital, she put two and two together and told Zephany’s biological father that she thought it could have been the accused.
Seventeen years later, she identified the accused as the perpetrator when Zephany’s biological father, Morne Nurse, sent her a photograph.
She also pointed out the accused in a police ID parade.
This week, after completing her testimony in court, she told Weekend Argus she had given birth to a second child at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997.
Her eldest was a son, now aged 26, and the second a daughter, who turns 19 soon.
Although she loved both children, she had a particular bond with her daughter – probably, she admitted, because she realised the child happened to be at the hospital’s maternity unit on the very day that Zephany disappeared.
“She’s my baby. She is my only daughter,” she said fondly.
However, the realisation that the kidnapper chose another child made her think about what her life would have been like had her daughter been taken.
“I was shocked because it could have been my child,” she recalled.
Piet said that although she had experienced waves of different emotions this week, nervousness about testifying had not been one of them.
It had been her first time in court and she was a bit uncertain about how to conduct herself.
the only aspect that had bothered her was the eager camera crew assembled at the foot of the steps of the court building, waiting to capture a photograph or video footage of her.
The trial began on Tuesday and, after calling nine witnesses, the State closed its case on Thursday.
Defence advocate Reaz Khan has indicated he intends to call the accused to testify as well as two of her family members. There was a possibility of a fourth witness – the police detective who conducted the ID parade during which Piet identified the accused.
Khan put it to Piet during cross-examination that she was uncertain when she identified his client and questioned the dock identification she made this week.
However, Piet insisted she was sure.
The accused pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, fraud and the contravention of the Children’s Act.
She claimed in a plea explanation a woman named Sylvia undertook to help her fall pregnant shortly after she had had a miscarriage.
However, when she went to the Wynberg train station to meet Sylvia, a woman approached her instead and handed her a baby, telling her that Sylvia had sent her.
Despite efforts to try and go through an adoption process, nothing concrete ever materialised, she claimed.
She decided to keep it secret.
Other State witnesses who testified include Celeste and Morne Nurse, a woman identified as Mary Lewis who used to drive the accused to work and back, a Groote Schuur Hospital nurse, Department of Home Affairs officials from Malmesbury where the accused allegedly registered the birth and a police official who was present when the accused was informed of the charges against her.
The trial continues on Monday.