'Mom' Guilty in Crazy 1997 Baby-Snatching Case
Woman found guilty of kidnapping 3-day-old baby from mom's side
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2016 12:12 PM CST
Celeste Nurse, center left, the mother of a child abducted in 1997, leaves court with family and friends in Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

(Newser) – A 51-year-old woman was found guilty Thursday of kidnapping a newborn in 1997 as the girl's mother slept in a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The unnamed defendant had pleaded not guilty, insisting she adopted the infant and "didn't know the baby was stolen." Incredibly, the girl was reunited with her biological parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse, last year after befriending a girl at school who resembled her—and who ended up being her younger sister. The Nurses cried as the verdict was read; the defendant had also cried in court while testifying about being barred from seeing the girl she'd raised as her daughter. She testified that she had miscarried a baby in 1996 without telling her husband, then paid a woman to find her an infant to adopt, and that when the woman did so, the defendant told her husband the baby was theirs.

The judge rejected that story as "a fairytale," the Guardian reports, adding, "You must have been the person who removed the child from [the] hospital." She was convicted of kidnapping, fraud (she registered the child as her own daughter in 2003 and changed her birthdate), and contravening child protection laws; the judge said she faces 10 years in prison when she's sentenced on May 30. As for the abducted girl, News24 says that she's still living with the husband of the defendant, who raised her as his daughter. The now-18-year-old issued a statement Sunday in which she ripped media portrayal of the case and seemed to imply she still considers the couple who raised her to be her family: "How would your daughter or son feel when their skin feels ripped [off] their face? Because of you. Appreciate the privacy you have with your family and think what I am going through, and my father and mother." Take an in-depth look at the trial here.