South African baby stolen 17 years ago reunited with family – A baby who was stolen from her mother’s arms while sleeping in hospital 3 days after she was born was reunited with her true family 17 years later by way of a remarkable coincidence.
Zephany Nurse was found after her biological sister joined her Cape Town secondary school and pupils there noticed the striking similarity between the girls.
Cassidy Nurse, 14, told her parents, Morne and Celeste, about the older girl and they invited her to their home for tea after school. On meeting her, they contacted the police, who confirmed the girl’s identity through DNA tests.
A 50-year-old woman, who is believed to have changed Zephany’s name and raised her as her own, has been arrested. Police said the woman was married but had no other children, and was living just a few miles away from Zephany’s real parents.
The baby’s disappearance from Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in April 1997 was covered widely by both South African and international media, and her parents have issued regular appeals over the years to anyone who might know her whereabouts.
They had two more girls and a boy but never forgot their first child and celebrated her birthday each year with a cake and candles. Their younger children were all told about their sister. Speaking in 2011, Mrs Nurse said not a day went by without her thinking about her missing daughter. “I just hope one day someone will realize something or see something and bring her back to us,” she said.
Mr Nurse said: “I’ll never, ever give up hope. I can feel it in my gut – my daughter is out there and she is going to come home.”
Mr and Mrs Nurse attended yesterday’s court hearing but declined to comment. They are understood to have been introduced to their daughter as her parents on Thursday, but she remains with social services.
Zephany’s aunt, Chantelle Nurse, said the first meeting had been deeply emotional for her birth mother. “She was just crying and she knew that this was her child,” she said.
The family are now looking forward to celebrating her birthday in April with her for the first time. “We’re going to have a big bash for her,” she said. “The feeling, I can’t explain. It’s like you’re in a dream and you’re trying to wake up and asking yourself if this is real.”
The arrested woman’s family sobbed over the loss of Zephany.
“She has been part of our lives for ever,” said the woman’s sister. “And now she’s just gone.
“We have had no contact or anything. We have no idea where she is.”
Coletta Canale, a Cape Town psychotherapist, said that while the girl’s biological family was jubilant, her sentiments would be more conflicting.
“Her world has been turned upside down by this and if she had a good relationship with the woman she knew as her mother, the loss is going to be profound. She may even feel guilty that she is the reason for her prosecution,” she said.
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