A case that remained unresolved for 20 years, found its outcome only when Nurse, a teenager from South Africa, met a new friend that their daughter made at school.
It all started in 1997, when Celeste Nurse could not find her daughter at the maternity hospital, three days after giving birth. The mother, aged 18 at the time, fell asleep with the little girl on her chest, during which time the little one was stolen.
For two decades, Nurse’s family did not give up the idea that they would never see their daughter again, so they celebrated her birthday in her absence every year.
However, everything changed in February 2015, when the second daughter of Nurse introduced them to her new friend from school. When they saw her, the couple sensed that their child had been abducted. They learned that the girl, named Zephany, was born on the same day as their missing daughter.
The family did not think at all and decided to notify the authorities, requesting a DNA test, which confirmed Zephany’s identity. It seems that she grew up only a few kilometers from her biological parents.
A lady wearing in a nurse’s attire walked out of a Cape Town hospital in April 1997, carrying a three-day-old infant kidnapped from the maternity department while the baby’s mother slept. The stolen child’s genuine identity was only uncovered by chance 17 years later.
Miché Solomon’s final year began on the first day of school at Zwaanswyk High School in Cape Town.
And on that January day in 2015, Miché, then 17, was surrounded by other pupils who were delighted to tell her about the new girl, Cassidy Nurse, who was three years younger than her but looked remarkably identical to her.
Miché didn’t think much of it at first.
However, Miché claims that when the two girls later reunited in the corridor, she felt an instant connection that she couldn’t describe.
She recalls, “I almost felt like I knew her.” “It was terrifying; I had no idea why I was feeling this way.”
“‘Hey, baby girl!’ I’d say. ‘Hey, big sis!’ she’d exclaim.” Miché reminisces. “I’d go into the bathroom with her and say, ‘Let me brush your hair, let me put some lip gloss on you.’”
“We don’t know – maybe in another life!” Miché and Cassidy would joke when people asked if they were sisters.
The two girls then snapped a selfie together and showed it to their pals one day. Miché was questioned if she was certain she hadn’t been adopted. “No! Don’t go insane! “She was adamant.
Then Miché and Cassidy went home and showed the image to their respective families. Miché’s mother, Lavona, who referred to her daughter as “Princess” and drove her to the mall and the movies, noticed how similar the two children looked.
Miché’s father, Michael, said he recognized Cassidy’s new acquaintance since Cassidy’s father owned an electrical business where he occasionally shopped.
Celeste and Morne Nurse, Cassidy’s parents, meanwhile, were transfixed by the photograph. They informed Cassidy they wanted to ask Miché a question, and when the two girls next met, Cassidy said, “Were you born on April 30, 1997?”
Cassidy told Miché that she wasn’t following her around, and that all she needed to know was when Miché was born. Miché responded affirmatively, stating that she was born on April 30, 1997.
Miché was brought from her arithmetic class weeks later to the headmaster’s office, where two social workers awaited her. They told Miché about Zephany Nurse, a three-day-old newborn girl who had been kidnapped 17 years before from Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town and had never been discovered.
Miché sat there listening to the story develop, confused why she was being told this. The social workers then indicated that there was evidence that Miché could be the kidnapped child from all those years ago.
Miché clarified that she was not born in the Groote Schuur Hospital, but rather at the Retreat Hospital, about a 20-minute drive away. She stated that this was the information on her birth certificate. However, the social workers claimed that no record of her being born there existed.
Miché agreed to a DNA test, despite his suspicions that it was all a mistake.
Miché states, “I had such faith in the woman who raised me; she would never lie to me, especially about who I am and where I came from.” “I had already made up my mind that the DNA test would be negative.”
However, things did not turn out as she had hoped. The results of the tests came back the next day, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Miché Solomon and Zephany Nurse, the baby kidnapped from the Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997, were the same person.
Miché says, “I sat there in shock.” “I had no control over my life.”
Miché’s life was turned upside down when the abducted infant, now a young lady on the verge of adulthood, was discovered by chance almost two decades later.
She was told she wouldn’t be able to return home for another three months until she turned 18 and was given the authority to make her own decisions. She had to stay in a safe house for the time being.
Miché then received even more awful news. Lavona Solomon had been arrested, the lady she had grown up believing to be her mother.
Miché recalls, “That broke me.” “I was in desperate need of her. ‘Why?’ I had to inquire. ‘What the hell is going on?’ I felt like I belonged to someone else because I was so overwhelmed.”
Miché was present when Lavona’s husband, Michael, was questioned by police. Miché considered Michael to be her father.
Miché adds, “I could see the stress in his face, the bloodshot in his eyes, and I was truly afraid.”
The cops wanted to know if he was involved in the kidnapping scheme.
Miché describes his father as “soft and compassionate.” “He is, nevertheless, my rock, my idol, my daddy, and the guy. And here’s another man making him look like a young child, while my father insists, ‘No, I didn’t do that.’ Miché is my daughter, and how could she not be? ‘I had nothing to do with it.’”
Michael Solomon was never determined to have known Miché had been taken from her biological parents without authorization, and he was released.
Michael claims that Lavona was expecting a child. She is suspected of concealing a miscarriage and then fabricating the rest of her pregnancy before kidnapping Zephany Nurse, bringing her home, and claiming she had given birth to the baby herself.
Lavona Solomon was now being held in detention, facing charges of kidnapping and falsely claiming to be the mother of a child.
Despite the fact that Celeste and Morne Nurse had three more children, they had never given up seeking for their firstborn, Zephany, and had continued to celebrate her birthday every year, even after their divorce.
However, their kidnapped child had been growing up nearby the whole time. Miché used to run around on the field opposite the Nurses’ house as a small child, while Michael played soccer.
The Nurse family’s prayers had finally been fulfilled, thanks to a miraculous turn of circumstances. Miché and her birth parents were reunited in a police station with the help of social workers.
Miché says, “They hugged me and squeezed me and started crying.” But she wasn’t at ease. Something didn’t sit right with me.
“I was like, ‘Just go with it because it’s a shame for these individuals,’” she adds. “It’s sad, but I didn’t feel anything, and I didn’t feel like I missed them.”
Miché was in a state of mental anguish. One family was ecstatic and eager to make up for missed time, but they were strangers to her. The people she cared about were crushed, and one of them was in prison.
The trial of Lavona Solomon at Cape Town’s high court began in August 2015. Lavona’s testimony was heard by Miché and her biological parents.
Lavona Solomon maintained her innocence throughout the trial. She told the court about her multiple failed attempts to conceive, as well as her desperate desire to adopt a child. Lavona then revealed that a woman named Sylvia, who had been providing her with reproductive treatment, had offered her a kid. Sylvia had informed Lavona that the baby belonged to a young girl who had shown an interest in having it adopted rather than keeping it. However, there was no proof that Sylvia existed.
Furthermore, Lavona Solomon was identified in an identity parade nearly two decades after the crime by a witness who remembered seeing the lady masquerading as a nurse carrying infant Zephany away while Celeste was sleeping. The evidence against her was strong, according to the judge.
For kidnapping, fraud, and breaking the Children’s Act, Lavona Solomon was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016. During the trial, the judge chastised her for expressing no remorse.
Miché says, “I felt like death was coming to me.” “‘How am I going to cope?’ I wondered. How would I get through life without the mother who was with me every day?’”
Miché paid a visit to Lavona in prison later that year, and for the first time since the social workers came at her school, she was allowed to speak with her.
Miché explains, “The first visit was behind a window; it was not a contact visit.” “And I was heartbroken when I saw my mum dressed in female jail garb. I sobbed uncontrollably.”
Miché was desperate to learn the truth about what had happened on the day Lavona had kidnapped her from her mother’s hospital bedside.
“‘Knowing I’m not your blood – that I actually belong to someone else, and that you’ve taken away their opportunities and altered my entire fate – saddens me,’ I told her. How am I meant to trust your word when you’ve already lied to me by claiming I’m your child? You betrayed your faith in me. If you want to have a connection with me, you’ll have to be honest.’
“‘One day, I will tell you,’ she said.
“She claims she didn’t do it, but I believe she did.”
Miché, on the other hand, claims she holds no grudges.
Miché explains, “Forgiving puts so much healing into your heart.” “Life must continue. She understands that I forgive her and that I still adore her.”
Miché has now known the truth about her true identity for more than four years. She pondered moving in with one of her biological parents when she turned 18 in late April 2015, but opted against it.
Miché explains, “They were divorced, and their family unit had been screwed up.” “So I went with the most obvious and solid option: I moved back in with Michael, because that was my safe haven, my home.”
Miché has struggled to build a relationship with her biological family, and she admits that she has felt resentment toward them for removing her “mother.”
She still visits her in prison in Worcester, which is around 120 kilometers from her home, but it’s a lengthy travel, especially now that she has two children.
Miché often hopes time would “hurry up” for Lavona Solomon, who is set to be released in six years. She is still residing in the family home, awaiting the return of her mother.
Miché Solomon, maybe surprisingly, has opted to preserve the name with which she was raised rather than the one with which she was born. Despite the psychological trauma of learning that the woman who reared her had actually stolen her, she has managed to reconcile herself to both of her identities.
Miché recalls, “I guess I hated Zephany at first.”
“She arrived with such force, with such an unwanted invitation, with such agony and pain. Zephany, on the other hand, is the truth, whereas Miché, the 17-year-old girl I was, was a falsehood. So far, I’ve managed to strike a good balance between the two names. It’s great if you name me Zephany or Miché.”