South African parents find stolen daughter 17 years after

By The Rainbow

A couple in South Africa have found their daughter 17 years after she was stolen from her sleeping mother's arms thanks to an astonishing coincidence.

Zephany Nurse was abducted from a hospital in Cape Town three days after her birth in April 1997. Her bereft parents, Morné and Celeste Nurse, never gave up hope of seeing their first-born again and celebrated her next 17 birthdays without her.

Zephany grew up just a couple of kilometres away with a different name and a different family, never suspecting she was not their real daughter. But last month her biological sister, Cassidy Nurse, began attending the same school, and soon fellow pupils noticed a startling resemblance between them.

When Cassidy told her parents about the girl, they invited her home for a coffee and, struck by the physical similarities, contacted the police. DNA tests confirmed that she was their long-lost daughter. Zephany is now in social service care, while the woman who allegedly kidnapped and raised her has been arrested and charged.

As the Nurses came to terms with the extraordinary turn of events, Zephany's aunt, Chantelle Nurse, told how the biological sisters had quickly become close at school. “When she met Cassidy, there was just an incredible connection and it started from there,” she told CapeTalk radio.

Celeste met her daughter for the first time in 17 years on Thursday, Chantelle added. “She was just crying and she knew that this was her child,” she said.

The woman accused of snatching Zephany is understood to be 50 years old with no other children.

Yesterday she appeared at the Cape Town magistrates court charged with kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections of the Children's Act.

A small figure in a striped top, she clutched her hands nervously in the dock, the Cape Argus newspaper reported. Her expression was passive as she heard she would spend the next week behind bars at Woodstock police station.

The paper added: “Her family were devastated. They wept outside the courtroom, the Nurse family barely glancing at them as they walked by in a tight huddle.”

The accused woman's sister reportedly said of Zephany: “She has been part of our lives for ever. And now she's just gone … We have had no contact or anything.”

Zephany was snatched from the maternity ward at the Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town. She is now in the care of social services.

Morné and Celeste have three other children. They continued to celebrate Zephany's birthday each April. In a 2010 interview with the Weekend Argus newspaper, Morné insisted: “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.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Parents find stolen baby 17 years later

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