Zephany Nurse’s mother broke down as she detailed the disbelief she felt when her newborn daughter was snatched from the crib at her hospital bedside almost 19 years ago.
Celeste Nurse was the first witness to take the stand in the Western Cape High Court against a 50-year-old Lavender Hill woman who is accused of kidnapping three-day-old Zephany on April 30, 1997.
The child was born by emergency caesarean section at Groote Schuur hospital on April 28, 1997.
Nurse, a petite and well-dressed woman, testified in Afrikaans with an interpreter translating her evidence into English.
She told the court that she was sedated with a morphine injection and had been in considerable pain following the emergency caesarean.
Nurse said she saw a woman, dressed in an oatmeal-coloured top and maroon pants, sitting at the door of her communal ward.
She thought the woman was a nurse, and so when her baby started crying and the woman asked her if she could pick up the infant, she said yes.
But at about 4pm that afternoon, a nurse woke her and asked her where her baby was.
“I said: ‘What do you mean where is the baby?’”
Nurse then proceeded to describe how they searched every floor of the hospital to no avail.
She said the police were called and started questioning her.
When State prosecutor Evadne Kortje asked her the name of her child, she said “Zephany Joy Nurse” and broke down in tears.
Judge President John Hlophe adjourned proceedings to give the distraught mother time to compose herself.
When proceedings resumed, she emphatically told the court that she had not given anyone permission to take the baby.
The woman accused of taking Zephany had earlier pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her. She is charged with kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children’s Act.
By order of the court, the woman may not be identified to protect the new identity of Zephany Nurse.
The State alleges that the woman kidnapped Zephany on April 30, 1997, from Groote Schuur hospital.
According to the indictment, she took the child to the Home Affairs department in Malmesbury on March 3, 2003, where she registered her with her a different name, falsely presented the child as her and her husband’s biological daughter, and was issued with a birth certificate.
She also allegedly gave the child’s birth date as April 30, 1997 when in fact it was April 28, 1997.
The discovery that Zephany was the kidnapped infant from Groote Schuur hospital was only made on February 25, 2015, almost eighteen years later.
The teenager’s younger biological sister had started school at the same high school as her, and classmates had remarked on their striking resemblance.
Celeste and Morne Nurse became suspicious, contacted police, and DNA tests confirmed that she was indeed their biological daughter.[Source: iol/African News Agency]