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Woman on trial in S’African baby-snatching case




A woman charged with stealing a newborn baby 18 years ago appeared briefly in a South African court yesterday, in a case that came to light only when school pupils noticed a startling resemblance between a student and a new girl.

The case in the Cape Town High Court was postponed until today by Judge John Hlophe after prosecutors said they needed time to formalise agreements on a number of admissions by the defence.

The accused 50-year-old woman has been on bail since March last year after DNA tests confirmed that the new girl at the school and a 17-year-old final-year student were in fact biological sisters.

The new girl was the daughter of Celeste and Morne Nurse, whose first child was snatched as a three-day-old baby named Zephany in April 1997 from Cape Town’s Groote Schuur hospital.

Police were alerted after Zephany’s parents became convinced the older girl was their missing baby.

The parents looked on from the public gallery as the alleged kidnapper sat emotionless in the dock.

Without knowing it, the Nurse family had been living within a couple of kilometres (miles) of their kidnapped daughter, while celebrating her birthday every year and never giving up hope of finding her.

Zephany, who was renamed by her new family, is now approaching her 19th birthday after reportedly being raised with love and kindness by the accused woman and her husband, who she believed were her real parents.

Her whereabouts have been kept secret since she requested protection from the media storm over the case, a spokesman for the social services department told AFP.

The accused woman cannot be named, as that would reveal Zephany’s identity after she was kidnapped.

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