S. African woman guilty of abducting baby 18 years ago

Ms Celeste Nurse (second from left), the biological mother of a South African girl who was abducted after birth, leaving the Cape Town magistrates' court with family members on Feb 27 last year.
Ms Celeste Nurse (second from left), the biological mother of a South African girl who was abducted after birth, leaving the Cape Town magistrates' court with family members on Feb 27 last year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CAPE TOWN • A South African woman was yesterday convicted of kidnapping a newborn baby and raising her for 18 years before an astonishing coincidence reunited the girl with her biological family.

"You must have been the person who removed the child from hospital," High Court judge John Hlophe told the woman, who claimed to have been handed the baby at a train station after entering into a private "adoption" programme. "Your story... is a fairy tale and the court rejects it with the contempt it deserves."

The 50- year-old kidnapper, who cannot be named to protect the new identity of the girl she stole, remained grim-faced.

The girl's biological mother, Ms Celeste Nurse, 36, sobbed loudly as the guilty verdict was handed down while chants of "Yes! Yes!" were heard from the public gallery.

The kidnapper was denied bail and taken into custody ahead of sentencing on May 30. Onlookers clapped as she was taken down to the cells. She was also convicted of fraud and offences under the country's Children's Act for registering the girl as her biological child.

The judge said she could face a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

The girl's real identity came to light in February last year, when her younger biological sister began attending high school and 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 child.

They called the police, and DNA tests confirmed she was indeed their child.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'S. African woman guilty of abducting baby 18 years ago'. Print Edition | Subscribe