SA mesmerised by baby snatching case

2015-03-06 17:04
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Johannesburg – A Cape Town mother was dozing in her hospital bed when her newborn daughter was kidnapped by a woman disguised as a nurse. Through a twist of fate, she was reunited with her daughter nearly 18 years later in a case that has mesmerised South Africa.

A woman charged with stealing a newborn baby from its mother's arms 17 years ago was granted bail on Friday.

The girl, who is now nearing her 18th birthday, was taken from a Cape Town hospital in 1997 while her biological mother was recovering from a caesarean section.

She reconnected with her biological family after accidentally making friends with her birth sister at school and people started noticing the striking similarity between them.

A DNA test revealed that the teen was the daughter of the parents whose daughter was taken, prompting authorities to remove her from her adoptive parents and open a case against the 50-year-old "foster" mother.

The girl is currently living under the supervision of a social worker and maintains contact with her biological family and the adoptive father. The court has barred the adoptive mother from contacting her.

"[We] will not rush this reunification, as it is of a sensitive nature," the department in charge of the process said in a statement.

"Short planned visits and interaction sessions took place this weekend between the biological family and the teen. These are designed to begin the process of creating a comfortable environment for the family to begin bonding," it added.

The case - which includes charges of kidnapping, fraud and contravention of child protection legislation - is likely to be heard in about five months, once police have finalised their investigation.

The suspect could face anything from a non-custodial sentence to a prison term of up to 17 years. Her lawyer, Reaz Khan, told dpa he was hoping for an out-of-court settlement due to mitigating personal circumstances. He declined to provide further details.

Media reports have said the woman had suffered a stillbirth shortly before abducting the girl.

The police spokesperson did not want to comment on whether the adoptive father was aware she was not his biological child, but a spokesperson for the National Prosecution Authority confirmed that he does not face charges.

The case has mesmerised South Africa and there has been a public outpouring of support for the biological parents, who reportedly never gave up the hope of finding their daughter - staging a birthday party for her every year.

"I told her, 'From the first day I saw you for the first time, I knew you were my daughter'," her birth father told the broadcaster eNCA.

"It feels like I'm living a dream," said the mother. "I gave her a hug and she hugged me, but it felt different from when I hug my [three younger] other kids," she described their first encounter, explaining that "there is still a lot to process and it hurts."

Read more on:    cape town  |  abduction  |  crime

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