Teenager kidnapped 17 years ago refuses to see her biological parents
Celeste Nurse from South Africa couldn't have been happier. Just three days earlier she had given birth to her daughter Zephany. Both mother and child were doing fine and spending a few days in the hospital to make sure they were both fit before heading home to start their life as a family. Celeste's husband Mourne had just been to the hospital for a visit and was on his way home. Zephany slept fitfully at her mother's side.
Later that evening a nurse came to check on Celeste and her baby daughter. Everything seemed fine, so Celeste was perfectly at ease when she gave in to her exhaustion and fell into a deep slumber. Little did she know that this evening would be the last that she would spend with little Zephany.
When she woke up, Celeste looked around and noticed that her daughter was missing. She immediately called the nurse. At first she thought that someone from the hospital had simply taken her to change her diaper or run some tests, but when the nurse entered the room, the look on her face said it all. Something was very wrong.
It was quickly determined that Celeste's newborn had been abducted. The "nurse" who had come to check on the mother and child before Celeste fell asleep was actually not a nurse at all!
Authorities were alerted and the search began for the missing three-day-old. Days went by, then weeks and months. Finally the couple's hope began to fade. "As a mother, this breaks your heart. Is she okay? Is she being abused? Is she still alive?," Celeste asked herself daily.
Eventually the couple recognized that at some point they had to continue with their lives.
In the years following the abduction, Celeste and Mourne had three other children, two girls and one boy. But Zephany was never forgotten and they had never completely given up hope that some day they might be reunited. The family even gathered together every year to celebrate the lost baby’s birthday. And every year an announcement was published in the local newspaper with the hope that she might still be found.
But year after year went by and nothing happened.
But finally something did happen. Celeste's and Mourne's 13-year-old daughter Cassidy came home from school one day with some very strange news. Celeste and Mourne were expecting a very random story about some typical teenager problem, but what they heard grabbed their attention.
Cassidy was certain that she had seen a young girl who shared a striking resemblance with her. For the first time in a long time there was actually a glimmer of hope. What if it was her?
When they met the teenage girl Cassidy had been talking about, Celeste and Mourne were shocked. There was absolutely no doubt in Celeste's mind that the young girl was Zephany. She immediately got in touch with the police and a DNA test was performed. The couple waited nervously for the results and then the call finally came: the girl was their daughter! They had found Zephany!
After 17 years of suffering, they had finally reached the day they had dreamed of for so long. Their family was complete again. Or so they thought...
As it turned out, Zephany had grown up only a few miles from her biological parents. She had been raised by the woman who had stolen her from the hospital. Distraught and desperate after a miscarriage, the woman had simply taken Zephany home as if she were her own child. Even the woman's husband had no idea that Zephany wasn't their child.
Despite the unusual circumstances, Zephany had enjoyed a happy childhood and had no intention of turning her back on the parents who raised her.
But she now found herself trapped between two worlds: the one where she had spent her whole life and the one where she should have been.
For a while, the Nurse family tried to reconnect with Zephany, but they soon discovered that their little girl was not exactly the way they had hoped. It was difficult communicating with her. The teenager withdrew from her biological parents and turned back to those who had raised her for more than 17 years.
"She stole her once and now it feels like she's stolen her all over again. There was a connection but the bonding didn't really happen, we weren't given the space or the time for that," Mourne said.
Today, Zephany, who still lives under the identity that her "adoptive" parents gave her, refuses to see Celeste, Mourne, or her brother and sisters. But the woman who kidnapped Zephany all those years ago has finally been brought to justice and is serving a prison sentence.
"I am hoping that woman being out of the picture, now she is behind bars, will help the situation. I can't do any more now. I can only hope that she will choose to come back some day," explained Mourne.
You can watch their tragic story here in this video:
After this report was aired, things took a turn for the worse when Celeste and Mourne divorced. The stress of this tragedy was too much for them. Even if Zephany does find her way back to them, they will probably never have the big, happy family they had always dreamed of. But although they're no longer together, Celeste and Mourne can, at the very least, rest easier knowing that their baby girl is alive and well.
And life continues: one day, perhaps their lost child will see their perspective and accept their love. And perhaps they will manage to understand her as well... We can only hope that one day they find the closeness they dream of.