Zephany takes food to imprisoned kidnapper mum

Celeste Nurse in hospital with Zephany before she was abducted from Groote Schuur hospital on April 30, 1997, when she was just 3 days old.
Celeste Nurse in hospital with Zephany before she was abducted from Groote Schuur hospital on April 30, 1997, when she was just 3 days old.

The 51-year-old woman charged with stealing baby Zephany Nurse from a Cape Town hospital back in 1997 is suffering from severe health problems in Pollsmoor Prison.

The woman, a diabetic, recently had heart bypass surgery. Last week, she cracked several ribs after slipping and falling on a wet prison floor.

Zephany (18) still considers the woman to be her mother, and apparently delivers special diabetic food parcels to her behind bars.

The woman’s lawyer, Reaz Khan, told City Press that they fear for her health.

“I went to see her. She told me her body is sore. She said she slipped in water on the prison’s floor and fell last week,” Khan said.

The woman, a former housewife, dedicated her life to raising Zephany with her husband at their house in Retreat. The teenager was raised by another name, which cannot be revealed to protect her identity.

Their home was mere streets away from that of Zephany’s biological parents, Morne and Celeste, and her biological siblings, Cassidy, Joshua and Micah.

This week, Morne said he had no sympathy for the woman who had shattered his family.

“She made her bed, now she must lie in it,” he told City Press. “She is in prison, anything can happen there.”

Morne said his entire family was nursing raw wounds and were seeing counsellors following the heartbreaking trial at the Western Cape High Court last month.

“Each time we talk about it, it opens all the wounds again. It is a difficult journey,” he said.

He added that things were tough financially – but that UK newspapers were paying the family up to R30 000 per exclusive interview.

Last month, he was interviewed by the UK tabloid Daily Mail, and told British readers how the kidnapper robbed him of his daughter’s childhood – and now had also ultimately turned her against them.

“Finding her was the best news ever, but it feels like we’ve lost her again. Our hearts are broken,” he told Daily Mail.

Zephany has rejected Morne and Celeste as parents, preferring to stay with the man who raised her.

The incredible discovery happened in January 2015 when Zephany and Cassidy coincidentally started attending the same school.

Pupils noticed a striking likeness between the girls and they were drawn to each other, becoming friends despite a four-year age gap.

In February 2015, DNA tests revealed that Zephany was Cassidy’s long-lost sister.

In court, Celeste cried while testifying how a woman dressed like a nurse entered her hospital room. Celeste dozed off, and when she woke up again, her baby was gone. Celeste was 18 years old at the time.

The family had celebrated Zephany’s birthday every year, always hoping that one day she would return.

It was also revealed in court that Morne blamed his then wife for their baby’s disappearance.

The couple got divorced in 2015.

Meanwhile, the kidnapper sobbed during an interview with eNCA.

“I love her [Zephany], I miss her ... I never knew she was stolen,” the woman said.

Her husband said: “I was devastated, broken. She was my child, she is my child. We are very close.”

In court, the woman claimed that she adopted the baby and did not know that the child had been kidnapped.

But on March 10, Judge President John Hlophe dismissed her version of events “with the contempt it deserves”, convicting her of kidnapping, fraud and contravention of the Children’s Act.

She has been imprisoned since then, and her sentencing is scheduled to start at the Western Cape High Court on May 30.

Khan said special arrangements had been made at Pollsmoor Prison for the woman’s diabetic needs. He said family members were taking special food to her every day.

He would not confirm if Zephany was one of those regularly visiting her kidnapper at the prison.

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