State wants 15 year sentence for Zephany Nurse kidnapper

Morne Nurse speaks to reporters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Morne Nurse speaks to reporters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cape Town - The State has submitted that the woman accused of kidnapping baby Zephany Nurse almost two decades ago should be jailed for 15 years, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday.

Prosecutor Evadne Kortjie, responding to Judge John Hlophe’s question of what she thought would be an appropriate punishment, told the court she felt an exemplary sentence was required.

She suggested that part of the 15 year sentence for kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children's Act be suspended, and that the sentences run concurrently.

Kortje referenced the kidnapping of Micaela Hunter, who was snatched from the Marymount Maternity Home in Kensington in 1994.

According to the State, this is the only similar case to that of baby Zephany.

READ: I'll only forgive her if she tells truth – Zephany's biological dad

Sonja Combrinck was sentenced to prison for 12 years and was released on parole on October 14 2004 after serving eight years for this case.

DNA tests

She in May 1994 posed as a Red Cross worker and told the baby’s mother she wanted to use her baby for a bath demonstration for unmarried mothers.

Like the accused, Combrinck had also had a miscarriage and faked the rest of her pregnancy.

Almost two years later, the woman’s boyfriend went to the police station with the baby and DNA tests confirmed she was the kidnapped infant.

Kortje pointed out that Combrinck was sentenced to 12 years and had had the child for only two years.

She said the same sentence was handed to Ann Pettway of North Carolina in the US, convicted of snatching Carlina White from a New York Hospital in 1987.

READ: War of words between kidnapper's family and Zephany's biological parents

Kortje told Hlophe the State felt the sentence should reflect the severity of the crime.

“She erased the identity of Zephany Nurse through her actions,” she said.

“If she wanted a child, she should have gone to adopt a baby. She had no right to take that child.”

Riaz Khan, for the defence, said he understood that the public wanted vengeance and retribution for his client’s crimes, especially since she lacked remorse and had pleaded not guilty.

Biological reunion

“The court shouldn’t approach punishment in spirit of anger. The accused’s personal circumstances have to be acknowledged,” Khan said, referring to the accused’s miscarriages, past abusive relationships and her and her siblings being deserted by her mother as a child.

The 52-year-old kidnapper had a number of health issues and was a first time offender.

Biological father Morne Nurse during sentencing proceedings told the court the accused had “indoctrinated” his daughter and that they did not have a relationship because of the woman’s interference.

Khan dismissed this as speculation, as well as the State’s arguments that the woman be removed from society to allow the now 19-year-old to reconcile with her biological family.

“Removing her won’t necessarily cause reunification,” he argued, pointing out that the woman had been behind bars since her conviction in March.

The kidnapper, who may not be named as it may lead to the victim being identified, was convicted of kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children's Act.

She maintained in her testimony that she had not been at Groote Schuur Hospital on the day Nurse was kidnapped in 1997.

The woman was arrested in February 2015 after the teen's true identity came to light when the girl's biological sister Cassidy, who is four years younger, told her parents that a girl in matric at her school bore a striking resemblance to her and her parents.

DNA tests later confirmed the teenager was Zephany.

The kidnapper, however, said she got the baby from a woman called Sylvia, who had been giving her fertility treatment in 1997 after she had miscarried.

Sylvia apparently arranged for the baby to be handed to her at the Wynberg train station without her prior knowledge, she claimed.

Hlophe was expected to hand down a sentence on Monday.

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