A South African woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for a crime she committed 19 years ago, when kidnapped a newborn baby and raised her as her own.
The woman was convicted of kidnapping baby Zephany Nurse, while her mother slept, just three days after giving birth at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Judge John Hlophe stressed that the 51-year-old woman, who was arrested in 2015, had committed a serious crime. But the judge took into consideration her age, previously clean criminal record and chronic conditions, while making the decision.
Zephany Nurse’s true identity came to light when her younger biological sister began attending high school last year and pupils pointed out her remarkable likeness to a final year student. So the girl, who is four years younger, told her parents about the student’s resemblance to her and her parents. The parents met the older girl and immediately thought she could be their long-lost child. A police investigation and DNA tests showed that the two girls were sisters.
As a result, the woman was convicted of kidnapping, fraud, and contravening the Children's Act. She maintained in her testimony that she had not been at Groote Schuur Hospital on the day Nurse was kidnapped in 1997. The prosecution also said the woman defrauded authorities when she registered the child as her daughter in 2003 under a false birth date.
Zephany, now 19, currently lives in Steenberg with the man she thought was her father. The teenager was sent to a place of safety after the kidnapper's arrest. She, however, opted to move back to the home in which she had lived and is understood to have a close bond with the kidnapper's husband. Local media have previously reported that Zephany does not wish to have a relationship with her birth parents and considers the woman who kidnapped her as her mother.