‘We won’t share stolen daughter’

2015-03-01 15:00

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‘That woman stole Zephany from us for more than 17 years. We never saw her walk and we never heard her speak. We didn’t hear her cry.

“That’s why we will not share her with the people who raised her.”

With these words, the family members of Morne and Celeste Nurse articulated the couple’s years of hell after their three-day-old daughter Zephany was kidnapped from Cape Town’s Groote Schuur hospital on April 30 1997.

“We slept on the hospital floor, hoping we will hear her cry somewhere,” Shantel Berry, Morne’s sister, told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, from her home in Retreat in the city’s southern suburbs.

“Morne went looking for Zephany at train stations. We were all broken.”

Now the Nurses will finally be able to hold their long-lost daughter with the green eyes.

An unbelievable coincidence led to this puzzling kidnapping being solved. The Nurses’ youngest daughter, who was born four years after Zephany, realised in January that a matric girl in her school bore a striking resemblance to her and her father.

She told her parents about her new friend and they started wondering if she might be their missing daughter.

When the Nurses heard the girl and Zephany shared the same birthday, they went to the police.

DNA tests on Thursday conclusively proved she was indeed their eldest daughter.

“We thought we were dreaming,” says Berry.

On Friday, a 50-year-old woman from Lavender Hill, who allegedly kidnapped Zephany, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on charges of kidnapping and fraud. A court order prevents her name from being revealed.

Celeste Nurse and members of her family leave the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court where the woman who allegedly stole her daughter Zephany appeared on charges of kidnapping and fraud. Picture: Liza van Deventer

City Press understands that Zephany, who grew up with a different name and surname, doesn’t want to make a decision about her future yet. She is talking to her biological parents over the phone, and short visits took place over the weekend.

A source close to the father who raised Zephany says his heart bleeds for the man, who was dealt a double blow this week. He not only “lost” his child, but possibly also his wife. He was allegedly completely in the dark about all of this.

His wife apparently had more than one miscarriage before the kidnapping. It’s not clear how she allegedly fooled her husband, but it is believed she arrived home one night and said she had given birth.

The couple who raised Zephany got married three years after the child arrived. Her birth was only registered in Malmesbury when she was six years old.

Another family member of the Nurses said Zephany told Morne: “I don’t look like my father or mother at all, but I look just like you.”

Morne and Celeste have seen their daughter and talked to her, but the rest of the family haven’t met her yet. “We hear she’s beautiful. All of us can’t wait to give her a hug, to listen to her and welcome her,” says Berry.

However, Berry says, they will not be using her other name. “No, she is Zephany. We don’t want to take anything from that other place. She is ours now.”

But family members who saw the 17-year-old grow up in front of them say the mother who raised her “is not a monster”.

“Does it look like they abused her? She was spoilt and she was everything to them. She was their only child.”

The father who raised Zephany declined to comment on Friday.

“He is broken,” says a cousin of the 17-year-old, who asked not to be named.

“She phoned him and told him she’s okay, but she can’t talk to her mother. She is just as gentle as her father.

“She does well at school and is gorgeous. She likes her high heels and red dresses. She wants to be a beauty therapist. She was really spoilt; her mother did everything for her. Her mother is a machinist and wanted to make her matric farewell dress herself. She even took another job to be able to buy the fabric.”

The family who raised Zephany just wants her to come home.

“And if she can choose, we hope she chooses us. This is her house; we are her family.”

Sihle Ngobese, the spokesperson for the provincial department of social development, said: “It’s in the interest of the teenager that her privacy be protected. She has asked to be under the supervision of a social worker.”

Ngobese says the department will offer counselling and therapy sessions to all parties involved.

Plans are also in place to ensure Zephany’s schooling is not disrupted. She will be assisted by a private teacher.

The department will also help her to gradually become better acquainted with her biological parents.

“We will also offer assistance to the husband of the accused woman.”

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