A South African woman who allegedly kidnapped a baby from a hospital and raised her for 17 years was released on bail Friday in a sensational case in which authorities are struggling to protect the privacy of a girl who apparently had no idea of what had happened.
Magistrate Mark Engel said the accused woman is not a flight risk and has no previous convictions, but ordered her to stay away from the girl she raised, the South African Press Association reported. She was freed on $425 bail.
The woman cannot contact her husband either, with whom she raised the child, as he is now a witness in her trial, prosecution spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said.
“She must move house,” he said. The trial resumes on May 29.
The 50-year-old woman, who lives in Cape Town, was arrested last week after the biological parents of the girl, who turns 18 next month, figured out her identity. The woman faces charges of kidnapping and pretending to be the child’s mother, police said.
The girl was reunited last week with her biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse. She had unknowingly befriended her younger biological sister after the two attended the same high school. Shocked by their resemblance, the Nurses alerted police, who conducted DNA tests that proved she was the baby kidnapped from Groote Schuur hospital in 1997.
“My daughter is back and that’s it,” Morne Nurse, the girl’s biological father, said Friday. “Look, she is broken and we will fix it.”
The girl, who has not been identified because she is a minor, thanked the public for their support earlier this week.
“Under the circumstances, I am doing fine,” she said in a statement read by her lawyer, Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law, a South African organization that represents children.
The group asked media not to publish the name of the alleged kidnapper for fear it could reveal the girl’s identity. She is in the care of social services, police said.
The girl was raised by the accused and her husband as an only child, living in the same area as her biological family.
“She was blessed, she had everything, she never missed out on anything,” said Judith Wasserfall, a friend of the alleged kidnapper.
The biological parents have said they never gave up hope. Each year, her siblings blew out candles on a birthday cake for their missing sister. SAPA