On April 27, 1997, almost 19 years ago, Celeste Nurse gave birth to a baby girl in a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa and that was the last time she saw her newborn baby daughter, Zephany, until now.
Three days after Celeste gave birth, a woman dressed as a maternity nurse came into her hospital room and kidnapped the baby. Celeste, who was under the influence of painkillers from her caesarean section, had mistakenly allowed the woman to take her baby daughter so that she could get some sleep.
Celeste was awoken later by a real maternity nurse, who was shaking her and asking her where her baby was. Celeste told her that another nurse had been in earlier and took Zephany.
That is when Celeste realized that she had made a horrible mistake. After realizing what had happened, Celeste ripped the IV out of her arm and started to frantically search the halls and rooms of the hospital for her missing daughter. Unfortunately, Celeste and the hospital staff did not find Zephany that day. Even the police where unable to find out what had happened to Zephany.
Sadly, Celeste’s search for her kidnapped daughter would last almost two more decades.
Celeste and her husband, Morne, went on to have three more children, but they never forgot their kidnapped daughter. Every year on Zephany’s birthday, the couple would make pleas in print and TV media for the safe return of Zephany. As it would later turn out, the Nurse’s second-born daughter, Cassidy, would be instrumental in solving the case of Zephany’s disappearance.
Zephany’s kidnapping has captured news headlines in South Africa ever since the day she disappeared, but all of the publicity didn’t solve this criminal kidnapping case. Several leads in the case over the years led to nothing.
In 2009 a woman contacted the Nurses demanding $44,000 in exchange for information on their daughter’s whereabouts. The woman turned out to be total fraud, who was later found and arrested by police for attempted extortion.
The Nurse’s second daughter, Cassidy, was born about three years after Zephany was kidnapped. A real break in the case came after Cassidy entered her first year of high school.
Cassidy’s fellow high school students kept telling her that there was a senior female student that looked like her with the same skin color and similar facial features. Cassidy eventually met the older girl and they became good friends.
Cassidy later told her parents about her new friend and how they both looked alike. That’s when Celeste and her husband Morne became suspicious and started to wonder about the identity of Cassidy’s older friend.
Morne arranged to meet Cassidy’s older friend at a public place where he was able to talk to the girl and ask her what her birthday was. To Morne’s shock, the older girl’s birthday was the exact same month, day and year as Zephany’s. During the conversation, the girl also mentioned that she was often troubled by the fact that she did not look at all like her parents.
After meeting and talking with the girl, Morne went home and searched for her Facebook profile. There he found a number of the girl’s pictures and noticed how closely her features resembled those of his own children. Eventually, Morne shared the information with Celeste.
After Celeste saw the pictures and information, she was sure that this was the missing daughter that she and Morne had been searching for for nearly two decades. She felt positive that they had finally found Zephany.
Morne continued to search and gather information on the girl and her parents. Once he had all the facts and personal information that he needed, he contacted the police to investigate.
At the beginning of 2015, the police took DNA samples from the girl and the Nurses. Sure enough, the tests came back positive that the girl was the Nurse’s kidnapped daughter, Zephany.
On February 26, 2015, after DNA tests had confirmed the girl’s true identity and parentage, Celeste was finally able to meet her daughter Zephany for the first time since she had been kidnapped.
Zephany had been given a different name by the couple who raised her and, surprisingly, had grown up less than a mile from where the Nurse family lived.
The woman who allegedly kidnapped Zephany and raised the girl as her own child is now on trial. Due to the criminal laws in South Africa, the woman’s name has not been released to the public. A court order also prohibits the release of Zephany’s adopted name to the public.
The accused woman has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping and fraud charges brought against her by prosecutors.