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Woman sentenced for kidnapping newborn, raising it as her own

Morne, left, and Celeste Nurse, the biological parents of the South African born kidnapped child Zephany Nurse, embrace each other after court proceedings in Cape Town, South Africa, Aug. 15, 2016.

AP

JOHANNESBURG -- A South African woman who kidnapped a newborn nearly two decades ago from a hospital and raised the girl as her own was sentenced Monday to 10 years in jail.

Judge John Hlophe in Cape Town announced the sentence, South African media reported.

Zephany Nurse was reunited last year with her biological parents, Morne and Celeste Nurse, after the couple's second daughter befriended a girl at school who looked remarkably like her. A police investigation and DNA tests showed that the two girls were sisters and that the new friend was the Nurse's missing child.

Zephany Nurse's biological parents were in court for the sentencing Monday, but their daughter was not. Judge Hlophe said the crimes that the kidnapper committed were serious, but that he had taken into account her previously clean record and other mitigating circumstances in deciding the sentence, according to News24, a South African news outlet.

Publicly, the girl is known by the name given to her by her biological parents and used in the media in the years since her disappearance. After she was found, the girl chose to continue using the name given to her by the kidnapper. To protect her privacy, a judge ordered that her adopted name and the name of her kidnapper not be used by the media.

State prosecutors said the kidnapper snatched a three-day-old baby from her sleeping mother's hospital bedside in Cape Town in April 1997. The prosecution also said the woman defrauded authorities when she registered the child as her own daughter in 2003 under a false birthdate.