The woman accused of kidnapping Zephany Nurse from a maternity ward at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997, said she struggled to love the child that she knew was not her biological daughter.
The 51-year-old woman from Lavender Hill, in a plea explanation submitted to the Western Cape High Court, said she was questioned by the teenager, who wanted to know why she was not loved.
“She told me once, ‘you do not love me like you love (my brother)’. It took years for me to accept her as my own daughter.
“Although I was not her biological mother, I raised her as my own child,” the woman said.
The accused pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections of the Children’s Act.
She is accused of snatching Zephany from her mother Celeste’s ward almost two decades ago.
The accused cannot be named to protect the teenager’s identity.
Zephany’s story grabbed headlines after her biological father Morné Nurse tracked her down and lodged a case with the Hawks to conduct further investigations.
The woman, who appeared unfazed by the testimonies of Morné and Celeste Nurse on Tuesday, denied taking Zephany.
In her plea explanation, she says she was “handed a baby” by a woman at a train station in Wynberg on April 30, 1997 – the same day Zephany was snatched from her cot.
She said she was seeking medical attention for her infertility problems at the time, after several miscarriages.
She said she met the woman weeks prior to what she described as an “adoption” at Tygerberg Hospital.
“She (the woman who gave her the child) told me that the baby’s mother is a young girl who wanted to give her child up for adoption… I was told that the baby was mine and the documentation will be sorted out later.
“I had a bad feeling that something was wrong,” the accused said.
She said she paid the woman who promised to give her the relevant information and documentation for the adoption.
She said in the months that followed, she received Zephany’s birth certificate and denied falsely registering the child in Malmesbury.
Testifying about the life-changing experience for the first time, Celeste and her then-husband Morné Nurse, earlier told the Western Cape High Court of the devastation they experienced when their three-day-old daughter was kidnapped.
Celeste testified she was recuperating from an emergency C-section when the incident happened.
She said her body was “hurting all over” and she was drowsy after doctors injected her with pain-dulling medication.
“My bed was near the door. The cot was also near the door.
“There were six beds in the ward. I was lying in the bed next to the cot. What I can remember was that she (Zephany) started crying – I was sleeping at the time.
“I saw a person near the door.
“She was wearing an oatmeal top and a maroon pants (a nurse’suniform).
“The person at the door asked me if she could pick up my baby… All I can remember after that is the hospital nurse in my ward asking me where my baby was.
“We ran to every floor and the child was gone. She was just missing.
“I thought that someone needed to wake me up because this was not happening to me.
“I thought that it cannot be true. My child, she was a girl and I named her Zephany,” the emotional mother said before she burst into tears.
A new key witness in the trial was introduced to the court on Tuesday.
Both Celeste and her ex-husband’s testimonies spoke of a Mrs Piet – a mother in the same ward who can allegedly identify the accused and place her in the hospital 18 years ago.
Morné told Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe that after he had investigated the true identity of his daughter, he sent a picture of the accused and her husband to Mrs Piet without explaining its context.
“She (Mrs Piet) told me the person in the picture had everything to do with the (attempted) kidnapping of her daughter and that she was the one who took my daughter in 1997.
“She said the lady came into the ward and spoke to people. She (Mrs Piet) went to the phone booth to make a call. She was facing the ward. The woman came out of the ward with her baby and headed toward the lifts.
“She asked the woman what she was doing and the woman replied that the baby had been crying and she brought the infant to be soothed,” Morné said.
He insisted that Mrs Piet was convinced that the same woman that tried to kidnap her daughter all those years ago was the same woman that snatched Zephany.[Source: iol]