CAPE TOWN (AFP) - A baby stolen from her sleeping mother's arms shortly after birth has been found by the family through an astonishing coincidence 17 years later, South African police said Friday.
A 50-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with kidnapping after pupils noticed a remarkable likeness between the 17-year-old and her younger biological sister who started attending the same school this year.
DNA tests have confirmed that the older girl is the daughter of Celeste and Morne Nurse, who was snatched from Groote Schuur hospital as a three-day-old baby named Zephany in April 1997, local media reported.
The parents, who later had three more children, have celebrated Zephany's birthday every year since she was kidnapped, never giving up hope that their first-born child would come back to them someday, the Cape Argus said.
Zephany grew up with a different name, and a different family, never knowing she was not their real daughter.
But last month her biological sister, Cassidy Nurse, started high school at the same school as Zephany, and fellow pupils noticed a startling resemblance she bore to a final-year student.
When Cassidy told her parents about the girl, they invited her home for a cup of coffee. When they saw the striking resemblance between the girls, they contacted the police.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut confirmed that a woman had been arrested. She and her husband, who is also in his fifties, have no other children.
"The suspect is being charged with kidnapping, fraud and contravening sections... of the Children's Act, in that she fraudulently pretended that she was the biological mother of a child," Traut said.
"The kidnapped girl has since been placed in the care of the Department of Social Services of the Western Cape Government."
Without knowing it, the Nurse family had been living within a couple of kilometres of their kidnapped daughter.