In April 1997, Zephany Nurse was kidnapped from Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town when she was only three days old. Her parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse, never gave up hope that they would be reunited with her daughter. In fact, every year the Nurses would celebrate Zephany’s birthday in her absence.
Now Zephany is 17-years old and has been reunited with her biological family after friends noticed a striking similarity between her and another girl at the school she was attending. Students introduced Zephany to Cassidy Nurse, 14, and she immediately noticed the resemblance. Then she invited Zephany over to meet her parent who recognized their missing child and contacted the police.
Zephany’s aunt, Shantal Berry, said, “We feel very excited, happy. There is just a joy. It feels like we’re in a dream and we must still wake up. Can this really be happening?”
She also explained more about Zephany and Cassidy’s reunion. She said, “It was the first day of school and the other kids told Cassidy ‘there’s a girl who looks just like you’. When she saw Zephany she said ‘my God, she looks just like me’. Cassidy gave her a hug and it started from there. When Zephany’s brother saw her, he knew instantly.”
Recalling the day Zephany disappeared Berry said, “Oh my God, it was like a funeral. Sad. We felt empty, lost. We felt why, why? The feeling now is very different from that time. Over the years there was negative talk from people outside about her being killed, but not in the family. We knew she was alive. We had birthday parties for her every year. She’s back now and we’re going to have a big party.”
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According to the Daily Mail, DNA tests revealed that Zephany was the couple’s child and police have charged a 50-year-old woman with kidnapping. Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut, a police spokesman, confirmed that a woman had been arrested. He said, “The suspect is being charged with kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections of the Children’s Act, in that she fraudulently pretended that she was the biological mother of a child. The kidnapped girl has since been placed in the care of the Department of Social Services of the Western Cape Government.”
Earlier this week, the kidnapper and her family appeared in court along with the Nurses to discuss sentencing. The Cape Argus newspaper reported that the kidnapper’s expression was passive as she heard that she was not eligible for bail and would spend next week behind bars at Woodstock police station.
The paper added, “Her family were devastated. They wept outside the courtroom, the Nurse family barely glancing at them as they walked by in a tight huddle.” Additionally, the accused kidnapper’s sister reportedly said of Zephany: “She has been part of our lives for ever. And now she’s just gone … We have had no contact or anything. We have no idea where she is.”