Zephany Nurse’s two mothers had a showdown in court yesterday, where the judge was forced to intervene.
There was drama in the Western Cape High Court when biological mom Celeste Nurse ordered the woman convicted of kidnapping her daughter to “listen” as she read out a letter describing her pain.
But the 52-year-old convicted kidnapper sat defiantly in the dock refusing to acknowledge Celeste.
Instead, she put her fingers in her ears to block out Celeste’s voice, and looked straight ahead.
Sentencing proceedings against the Seawinds resident started yesterday, with the defence only calling up one witness, a clinical psychologist.
The seamstress was found guilty of kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children’s Act after she stole three-day-old Zephany from her mother’s arms at Groote Schuur Hospital on April, 30, 1997.
She has been in Pollsmoor Prison since her conviction in March.
The now 19-year-old girl was expected to take the stand yesterday but was not at court.
Instead her biological parents testified.
An emotional Celeste was the state’s first witness to testify in aggravation of sentencing.
Reading from a letter she wrote, Celeste stood looking at the accused as she described the pain she experienced after losing her baby.
“My first born, I had endured 11 hours of painful labour. I remember the look on her father’s face, the joy I saw on his face,” she read.
“For three days the world was our oyster but it came crashing down.”
However, the accused looked everywhere but at Celeste.
She first bowed her head, before putting her fingers in her ears.
A kwaad Celeste, her voice rising by the second, then said: “Listen to me carefully. I went home prepared for Zephany, but I was empty-handed, I had no child, no dignity.”
Judge President, Yahya Hlophe cut her off, saying: “This is not an American court, I’m not going to allow this.”
He instructed the State Prosecutor, Advocate Evadne Kortje, to ask Celeste questions.
She went on to tell the court how she felt in the days after Zephany had been kidnapped.
“I went through emotional trauma, we had a little cot that you zip up and I would put her picture in it and pretend she was inside,” she said.
“I would talk to it like it was a baby and say, ‘how are you, where are you in this world?’
“One day I tried to take my life while sitting on a toilet, I thought nobody understood me, it was such a nightmare.
“The first few nights alone we kept expecting whoever took her to bring her back.
“Sometimes the cats would make a sound like babies and I would make Mornè get up and go look but there was never a baby.”
She and Morné had a second child, Cassidy, 14, four years later, and she became paranoid.
“She was our everything, we spoilt her, she got everything, and she got Zephany’s love,” said Celeste.
“One day we were in Edgars and she hid under the railings and for a second I couldn’t find her. I felt sick, my heart. If anything had happened to her I would have jumped off the highest mountain. I don’t trust anyone anymore.”
Zephany’s true identity was discovered last year when the teen, who was in Matric, bonded with her biological sister at the school they both attended.
DNA tests revealed she was the long lost daughter of Morné and Celeste Nurse.
Celeste said instead of a happy reunion, her relationship with Zephany is strained.
“We are still dealing with it, my daughter has outbursts and I don’t know how to deal with them,” she said.
“It is difficult, because I gave birth to her. I had her in my womb for nine months and I found her and now I have to let her go again. I have to lose her all over again,” she said fighting back tears.
Taking the stand next, Zephany’s father Mornè Nurse said he had no relationship with his daughter.
He said his marriage to Celeste, which ended in February last year, took strain as they both kept blaming each other for Zephany’s disappearance.
“I blamed her for months, I blamed her for not being awake and she obviously blamed me for not being there [at the hospital],” he said.
“I was angry, the anger blinded me.”
An emotional Mornè broke down in tears as he described their yearning to have a child, before Celeste fell pregnant with Cassidy.
Judge Hlophe adjourned when the dad could not stop sobbing.
As Mornè left the court in tears, the accused, unfazed, turned to the upstairs gallery and blew kisses to relatives.
The matter continues today.