16 Aug 2016

Jail for SA baby kidnapper who raised child for 19 years

9:14 am on 16 August 2016

A South African court has jailed a woman for 10 years for kidnapping a baby from her hospital bed 19 years ago and raising her as her own.

The 51-year-old woman was arrested in 2015 after people noticed an uncanny resemblance between the girl, Zephany Nurse, and another girl at school.

DNA tests carried out by police then proved that the two girls were sisters.

Judge John Hlophe told the defendant she had "betrayed" Zephany by her actions.

The kidnapped girl's biological parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse, called her Zephany, but the name she grew up with has not been revealed to protect her identity.

Celeste Nurse, Zephany's biological mother

Celeste Nurse, Zephany's biological mother Photo: AFP

The convicted woman has also not been named for similar reasons.

Local media have previously reported that Zephany does not wish to have a relationship with her biological parents and considers the woman who kidnapped her as her mother.

She has decided to continue living with her abductor's husband, whom she grew up believing to be her father.

Outside the court, Zephany's biological grandmother Marilyn Francis said she was not happy with the length of the sentence, but hoped that the family would now have a chance to bond and form a relationship with Zephany.

The judge told the accused she had had "all the time in the world" to return the child but had chosen not to.

Annual local media coverage of the parents' birthday celebrations for their missing baby daughter meant that there was no way the defendant could not have known they were still looking for her, he said.

He also said her decision to plead not guilty and portray herself as a victim in the affair counted against her.