A South African woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison after it was discovered the child she had been raising for 19 years was not hers.
The 50-year-old woman, whose name was not released for legal reasons, is accused of kidnapping Zephany Joy Nurse from her mother’s bedside in April 1997, ITV News reported. Nurse was just 3 days old at the time.
The shocking truth came to light after Nurse became close with a fellow high school student who turned out to be her biological sister, according to reports. Classmates would often remark about their uncanny physical similarities.
The friend told her parents about Nurse, and they became suspicious. A DNA test and a police investigation confirmed that Nurse was in fact the child that had been taken from them after her birth.
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The suspect claimed the baby was given to her at a train station 20 years ago, Metro reported. She said she had been struggling with infertility and entered a private adoption program, but failed to produce any official paperwork in court.
The woman was charged with kidnapping, fraud and breaking South Africa's child protection laws. Prosecutors said she defrauded authorities by registering Nurse as her own daughter in 2003, even changing her date of birth.
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The suspect is also accused of tricking her husband into thinking the child was his.
"You lied to him for almost two decades, made him believe he was the biological father,” Judge John Hlophe said in court. “You didn’t tell the father of the child that you had had a miscarriage. You made him believe you were still pregnant."
The woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison. John Hlophe called the woman’s defense a “fairy tale,” saying that “one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to know you don't buy babies.”
Nurse’s biological father burst into tears after hearing the verdict.
"We're over the moon,” he told ITV News. “My daughter is back and we just have to work our way, feel our way and just be happy.”