The first day of sentencing in the Zephany Nurse kidnapping trial was an anti-climax as the matter was postponed for two months.
What drama and action there was took place outside court where the teenage girl’s biological family and the suspect’s relatives had an ugly war of words.
Relatives of the Seawinds woman convicted for taking Zephany from hospital in 1997 shouted and swore at the Nurse family, who held a prayer meeting outside court.
Sentencing procedures for the 52-year-old woman were supposed to start yesterday before Judge President Yahya Hlophe at the Western Cape High Court.
But the session was cut short when the accused’s defence lawyer, Reaz Khan, indicated he was not ready to proceed, which drew loud groans from the public gallery.
“I asked for the judgement as early as March and unfortunately I only received the judgement [yesterday] morning and for that reason I am unable to proceed today,” he said.
The matter was postponed for two months, to August 1, and Judge Hlophe then further shocked the court when, at the State’s request, he ordered that Zephany’s testimony be heard in camera (behind closed doors), and that no media or members of the public be allowed in court.
Hlophe also said four reports, including victim impact assessments of Zephany, her biological parents and the probation officer’s report, would not be disclosed to the public.
The accused, dressed in a dark jacket and pants, waved to supporters in the public gallery who blew kisses at her.
She faces 10 years for each of the charges she was convicted on, which include kidnapping, fraud and contravening the Children’s Act.
But the real drama happened afterwards on the steps of the Court as father Mornè Nurse addressed the media.
Mornè confidently strode out of court accompanied by this mother, Zephra Nurse, his brother Gavin Nurse and other family members, who formed a circle and prayed for a few minutes.
As Morné started talking to reporters, about eight women, believed to be family of the accused, started swearing and pointing fingers at him.
“All you want is money; you do not care about the child… jou ma se * ***,” one of them shouted.
Some of the women even attempted to confront Morné but were held back by others.
During the commotion, Zephany’s biological mother, Celeste, hid herself behind the doors at the entrance of the court.
Flanked by her own mother, Marilyn Francis and fiancé Justin Smit, Celeste, dressed in a black T-shirt with a baby picture of Zephany, declined to comment.
Morné remained calm, ignored the women, and said: “We are not happy with the proceedings at this stage. Now we have to wait for another two months, at this stage‚ it is actually draining our family and we can’t handle it anymore.
“We are tired‚ we want to have our lives to ourselves but it is not happening.”
With the voices of the women in the background, Mornè said he felt no sympathy for the accused.
“The world can blame us for what this lady is going through but she is in the court’s hands and the law must take its course,” he said angrily.
“She made her bed and she must lie in it.”