The woman who kidnapped Zephany Nurse from Groote Schuur Hospital 19 years ago as she lay sleeping in her mother’s arms was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday.
Judge John Hlophe said‚ in handing down the sentence‚ that the woman had ample time to return the child back to her biological parents but chose not to.
“It is very clear you caused so much harm to the nurse family. And one would have expected you to apologise but you chose not to. It’s also very clear you have caused much harm to Zephany. You have actually betrayed her‚” he said.
The family of the kidnapper and Zephany’s biological family listened carefully to Judge Hlophe‚ leaning forward to hear his words.
The 51-year-old was convicted earlier this year of kidnapping‚ fraud and contraventions of sections of the Children’s Act.
Zephany was snatched from the arms of her sleeping mother at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital in April 1997. In order to protect her identity‚ her kidnapper cannot be named.
Clinical psychologist Mark Steyn described the kidnapper‚ during earlier sentencing proceedings‚ as a “mother by nature. She loves children‚ children just love her”.
She firmly believed‚ he said‚ that she had not committed any offence. “She has maintained that she has been a good mother to her and that this should be acknowledged‚” he said.
Prosecutor Evadne Kortje disagreed‚ and argued that it was wrong for her to assume that she was the primary victim in the saga. “My concern is that this accused keeps on giving information that is contrary to the findings of this honourable court‚” said Kortje.
“She mentions that she was the primary victim in this matter. She has been convicted. She is mistaken to think that she is the primary victim.”
It was a story that attracted international attention. Media in the UK dubbed the teenager South Africa’s “Maddie McCann”‚ after the three-year-old girl who mysteriously disappeared in Portugal in 2007.
The Sunday Times established that thousands of rands were paid to the Nurse family by the foreign press to secure interviews. The Nurses’ lawyer‚ Heidi van der Meulen‚ said: “Any money that has been generated will be invested for our ongoing costs such as therapy for our children‚ schooling and accommodating Zephany if she ultimately lives with us.”
Zephany made an emotional plea for privacy earlier this year in a statement to the Sunday Times‚ issued via her legal guardian‚ Ann Skelton‚ the director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria.
She was writing her matric supplementary exams in the midst of the trial of the woman who kidnapped‚ then raised her.
The drama of discovering that she had been kidnapped shortly after birth prevented her from writing matric examinations in 2015.
She went from being an ordinary pupil at a Cape Town secondary school to the centre of a sensational story when classmates remarked on the strong resemblance between her and a new Grade 8 pupil‚ Cassidy Nurse‚ reported the Sunday Times.
A DNA test confirmed they were sisters‚ and that Zephany was snatched from Groote Schuur Hospital almost 18 years earlier. She was then reunited with her biological parents‚ Morne and Celeste Nurse.