Woman who stole baby from maternity ward in 1997 is jailed for 10 years

She was arrested in 2015 after suspicions were raised at a local school

Woman who stole baby from maternity ward in 1997 is jailed for 10 years

Morne and Celeste Nurse, the biological parents of the South African born kidnapped child Zephany Nurse, embrace each other after court proceedings in Cape Town | Image: Schalk van Zuydam / AP/Press Association Images

A South African woman who kidnapped a newborn nearly two decades ago from a hospital has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The 51-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity she gave to baby 'Zephany Nurse', raised the girl as her own.

She was arrested in 2015 after suspicions were raised when pupils at her school remarked on her close resemblance to another girl.

DNA tests carried out by police which then proved the two girls were sisters.

She was then reunited with her biological parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse.

The accused woman had earlier  pleaded not guilty, saying she had been given the baby at a Cape Town railway station after entering into a private "adoption" programme.

During the trial, the girl's mother described how she woke up in the maternity ward of a Cape Town hospital to discover that her three-day-old baby had disappeared from her cot on March 30th 1997.

Witnesses said they saw an unknown woman in a nurse's uniform at the hospital around the time the girl vanished, and one of them picked out the accused at an identity parade.

The accused woman told an earlier court hearing that after a miscarriage in December 1996, she had paid a woman who promised her to find her a child to adopt.

The woman said that in April 1997 she was given a baby wrapped in a blanket at a station in Cape Town.

She had not told her husband about the miscarriage, and presented the baby to him as their own child, she told the court.

Without realising, the Nurse family had been living within a couple of miles of their kidnapped daughter, celebrating her birthday every year and never giving up hope of one day finding her.

"I can confirm that the accused in this case has been sentenced to 10 years direct imprisonment. We are happy with that sentence," Eric Ntabazalila, a regional spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority told Reuters.