How I got Zephany
The woman charged with kidnapping Zephany Nurse 18 years ago claims the infant was handed over to her at a train station, and that the "adoption" was organised by a woman who told her the baby's mother was young and did not want her.
Explosive details about how she came to raise Zephany as her daughter are contained in a 35-page plea explanation handed to the Cape Town High Court yesterday.
It described her battle with infertility, her desperation to conceive, a troubled upbringing, abusive relationships and how she misled her family into believing the baby was hers.
The 50-year-old woman cannot be named to protect the identity of Zephany, who was raised under a different name.
She has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, fraud and contravention of sections of the Children's Act.
Zephany was reunited with her biological parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse, in February last year after a chance encounter with her biological sister.
The Nurses' daughter, Cassidy, then 13, was enrolled at the same high school as Zephany. When the two met they were struck by their physical resemblance and police were called in.
In her plea document, the woman said she had fallen pregnant in September 1996 and later that year experienced heavy bleeding. While she was at Tygerberg Hospital waiting for confirmation she had miscarried, a woman she recalled only as Sylvia approached her.
"She said she helps woman with fertility problems and if infertility persists then she can assist with adoption as she knew many women who did not want their children due to unplanned pregnancies. She provided me with a brochure and said the costs were R3000."
The woman claimed she had paid R800 for medicine to help with fertility, paying the balance some months later, although she had still not managed to fall pregnant.
"She then asked whether I was interested in adoption. I confirmed I was."
She met the woman again a few months later. "I was advised that I would have to fill in forms which would be forwarded to a court in my area. In April 1997 I received a call from her [Sylvia]," the plea explanation said.
"She advised me a young girl was not interested in keeping her baby and wanted to give the baby up for adoption.
"I asked whether I should be present when the child was born. She confirmed I would be present."
She said Sylvia asked her to meet her at Wynberg train station but she did not arrive and that an unknown woman handed her a baby wrapped in blankets. She claimed the "unknown lady" told her to go to Retreat Hospital and call Sylvia from there. When she arrived at the hospital, Sylvia told her the nurse she was supposed to meet was unavailable.
"I was told the baby was mine and the documentation will be sorted out later. I had a bad feeling something was wrong," the woman said.
"I sat with the baby on a bench at the hospital ... and had no idea what to do. I recall noticing a pin still attached to her umbilical cord. I thought: 'I did not tell my family about the miscarriage', so I decided I will tell them it was my baby."
The woman also revealed she had come from a broken family, had fallen pregnant at the age of 16 and had lost the baby when it was six weeks old. She revealed her battle to break up with her former husband, who was a drug addict, as well as a series of abusive relationships and miscarriages.
Prosecutor Evadine Kortje told the court the woman registered Zephany as the child of her and her husband at the Home Affairs offices in Malmesbury in 2003.
But she claimed she was there to register her brother's death.
According to the prosecution, the woman snatched Zephany from Groote Schuur Hospital on April 30, 1997, two days after she was born.
Celeste and Morne testified yesterday. Celeste broke down when she was asked to state Zephany's full names and the court had to adjourn for a few minutes.
Morne recalled how he resumed his search for Zephany after Cassidy told him about a girl at school who bore a striking resemblance to her.
"I scrutinised her Facebook page and printed her pictures," Morne said. "I also met the girl and she asked me if I wanted to see her mother and her father; she showed me on her phone. I said but they don't look like her, and she laughed. I said she looked like me and Cassidy. She was confused."
The trial continues.