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South African Woman Sentenced To 10 Years For Kidnapping Baby In 1997

The woman convicted of kidnapping Zephany Nurse 19 years ago arrives at the Cape Town High Court in March.
Die Burger
GAllo Images/Getty Images
The woman convicted of kidnapping Zephany Nurse 19 years ago arrives at the Cape Town High Court in March.

A South African woman has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for kidnapping a 3-day-old baby and raising her as her own child.

The 52-year-old Cape Town woman remains anonymous, Peter Granitz reports for NPR, and continues to deny that she committed any crime.

Zephany Nurse was kidnapped from her mother's hospital room in 1997. She was given a new name by her kidnapper, which – like her abductor's name — has not been made public, to protect Zephany's privacy. She was raised as the kidnapper's own daughter.

Her biological mother and father celebrated Zephany's birthday every year. But years passed without any leads on the kidnapping.

Then the Nurses' second daughter made a friend — "a girl at school who looked remarkably like her," The Associated Press reports. Police were called in to investigate, and last year, DNA tests showed that the two friends were, in fact, sisters.

The woman who raised Zephany Nurse was charged with kidnapping.

"The trial dragged on for more than a year, and the case has captivated large swaths of South Africa," Granitz says.

Now the case has ended with a conviction — but no confession.

Judge John Hlophe told the woman she caused "immense" pain to the Nurses, the AP reports, citing the African News Agency. The wire service continues:

"Judge Hlophe criticized the kidnapper for sticking to her story that she had bought the baby from a woman who told her that the biological parents did not want the child.

" 'At the very least, one would expect you to apologize, but you chose not to,' the African News Agency quoted Hlophe as saying.

According to media reports, Zephany Nurse — under the name she has used for the past 19 years — is now living with her kidnapper's husband, whom she believed was her biological father, the AP says.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.