NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2016, 12:14 PM
Celeste Nurse’s first born baby, Zephany Nurse, went missing from a Cape Town hospital three days after she was born.
A South African woman was found guilty of kidnapping a newborn baby and of raising her for 17 years after an incredible coincidence reunited the teenage girl with her biological family.
A newborn baby named Zephany Nurse went missing from a Cape Town hospital in 1997, three days after she was born to biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse.
“My baby was crying and I saw a person dressed in maroon clothes standing by the door. She asked if she could pick up the child,” Celeste Nurse said in tearful testimony in court, according to BBC. “I was in pain and under medication. I fell asleep. Next thing I remember is the nurse asking where my child was.”
Zephany, it turns out, was right under their nose for 17 years, growing up just a couple of miles away.
The name she grew up with has not been revealed due to a court order to protect her privacy.
Zephany Nurse, as pictured on the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children website.
In an extraordinary twist of fate, the Nurses’ younger daughter, Cassidy, attended the same high school as Zephany and their classmates noticed a striking resemblance between the two teenage girls.
When Zephany’s biological parents saw the two girls eating burgers together and found out she had the same birthdate as their long lost daughter, they ordered a DNA test which proved they were related.
The 51-year-old woman convicted of kidnapping, whose name was also not released in order to protect the 18-year-old’s identity, claims that she believed she was adopting the baby girl from another woman after she had a miscarriage.
She hid the miscarriage from everyone, including her husband, and passed Zephany off as her biological daughter.
Celeste Nurse, the mother of a child kidnapped in 1997, was reunited with Zephany after she noticed a striking resemblance to her younger daughter, Cassidy.
“I never knew she was stolen,” the convicted woman said in a video interview with BBC news, with her back to the camera.
“No one believes me at this moment. I’m a victim myself. I was a victim of a thing I was not aware of.”
She has not been able to see Zephany since she was arrested in February 2015.
The judge who handed down the verdict, John Hlophe, said the woman’s account was a “fairy tale.”
Morne Nurse, the father of a child kidnapped in 1997, hugs an unidentified woman as he leaves a court, in Cape Town, South Africa,
“You must have been the person who removed the child from the hospital,” Hlophe said.
“Your story, if anything, is a fairy tale and the court rejects it with the contempt it deserves.”
Zephany released a statement through her attorney, who works for the Centre for Child Law, with an emotional plea to the press to give her privacy and to not demonize the woman who she grew up believing was her mother.
“Don’t you think for once that that is my mother? Whether it is true or not is not for you to toy with,” she wrote