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Accused baby kidnapper weeps in S.African court

A woman accused of kidnapping a newborn baby and raising her as her own child for 17 years wept in a South African court Monday as she described her arrest.

It was the first time the 50-year-old woman, who has pleaded not guilty, had shown emotion in the week-long trial in the Western Cape High Court.

She was arrested on February 26 last year after DNA tests had shown that she was not the baby’s biological mother, and she was barred from seeing the girl again.

“That was the last time I saw her,” she said, before her face crumpled and she sobbed.

Outside the court, the kidnapped girl’s biological father, Morne Nurse, told reporters: “The emotion she is feeling now, we’ve been feeling for 18 years.”

The accused woman cannot be named to protect the identity of the kidnapped girl, who requested protection from the international media over the sensational case.

Last week, the girl’s mother, Celeste Nurse, 36, told how she woke up in the maternity ward to find her three-day-old baby had vanished from the cot by her side on March 30 1997.

The Nurse family was reunited with their daughter — whom they had named Zephany — in February last year after an astonishing coincidence.

When a younger daughter of the Nurses began attending high school, pupils pointed out her remarkable likeness to a final year student.

The younger girl told her parents, who met the older girl and immediately believed she was their long-lost baby.

They called the police, and DNA tests confirmed that the girl was indeed Zephany.

Local reports suggest that the trauma of the case led the girl to drop out of her final year of school and that the 18-year-old is now living with her boyfriend.

Morne Nurse told AFP outside the court that her biological parents had “a bit of contact still” with Zephany, but would not comment further.

The accused kidnapper told the court that after a miscarriage in December 1996 she paid a woman who promised to find her a child to adopt.

In early April 1997 she was handed a baby wrapped in a blanket at a train station in Cape Town, she said.

She had not told her husband of her miscarriage, so presented the baby to him as their own child, she said.

She was not cross-examined on her evidence as the prosecutor was unavailable, and the case was postponed by Judge John Hlophe until next Monday.

She faces a minimum of five years in jail if convicted of kidnapping.