Celeste Nurse in hospital with Zephany before she was abducted from Groote Schuur hospital on April 30, 1997, when she was just 3 days old.
Celeste Nurse in hospital with Zephany before she was abducted from Groote Schuur hospital on April 30, 1997, when she was just 3 days old.

#ZephanyNurse accused recounts abuse

By Catherine Rice Time of article published Feb 23, 2016

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Cape Town - A 50-year-old Cape Town woman has denied kidnapping a three-day-old Zephany Nurse from Groote Schuur hospital nearly nineteen years ago and then raising her as her own.

The Lavender Hill woman, who cannot be named by order of the court to protect the new identity of Zephany, has detailed a life of abuse in her plea explanation handed in to the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

In the 35-page plea explanation, she said domestic violence was a regular occurrence in her home while growing up, and that her mother abandoned her and her siblings when she was twelve years old.

Read: #ZephanyNurse: Dad tells of search for clues

When she was 16 years old she fell pregnant for the first time. The baby girl died six weeks after she was born. “I recall coming home and the family telling me about the death. I was disappointed and emotional about the loss.”

She detailed an abusive relationship and later marriage to a man called Deon who stabbed her, broke her arms, attempted to kill her, and raped her on different occasions. “On some nights while I would sleep, he would cut all my hair and display it on my pillow. Another time, he poured water over me and electrocuted me with wires while I was sleeping.”

Her relationship with her current husband started in 1994. She fell pregnant twice, but she suffered miscarriages both times.

Read: #ZephanyNurse case: mom breaks down

She again fell pregnant in September 1996.

But in December she “started experiencing bad abdominal pains and started bleeding”.

In the court papers, she said she went to Tygerberg hospital to seek medical attention and was approached by a woman in the waiting room who told her she could assist with fertility treatment or adoption.

She said the woman wanted R800 to help her with fertility treatment. “I did not inform Michael I had miscarried because I was promised I would fall pregnant as soon as I used the medication and had intercourse with him. I believed Sylvia could help me.” But she did not fall pregnant and doctors told her there was a problem with her fallopian tubes.

About a month later, the accused claimed Sylvia contacted her about the balance of money she owed her.

She met her in Cape Town and gave her the money and again a month later she gave her “an amount of money” and said she was interested in adopting.

“In April 1997 I received a call from her. She advised me a young girl was not interested in keeping her baby and wanted to give the baby up for adoption.”

The accused said Sylvia told her to meet her at the Wynberg train station. When she arrived Sylvia was not there, but another woman was and approached her with a baby. “She informed me that the baby was from Sylvia. I was taken by surprise as I was expecting to meet Sylvia and not for a baby to be handed over to me.”

“I had a bad feeling something was wrong. She promised I would be present when the baby was born, and this did not happen. I sat on a bench at the hospital looking at the baby and had no idea what to do. I recall noticing a pin still attached to her umbilical cord. I thought about abandoning the baby at the hospital. I thought I did not tell my family about the miscarriage, so I decided I will tell them it was my baby.”

The accused says she battled to bond with the baby and accept her as her own daughter for the first few years.

“I lived long with the guilt of not telling them about the adoption. I initially struggled to be close to her. I remember Zephany questioning my love for her.”

The accused says she was not aware that the baby had been kidnapped from Groote Schuur hospital.

She has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children’s Act and is currently out on bail of R5 000. She is also not allowed to have any contact with Zephany.

Earlier in court, Zephany’s biological father, Morne Nurse testified that he had never given anyone permission to take his baby.

Outside court, he was evasive when asked by journalists whether he saw Zephany regularly. “Let’s not touch that right now. Everything is still raw.”

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