Girl kidnapped at birth reunited with parents -- 17 years later

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Parents in South Africa have been reunited with their daughter -- 17 years after the baby girl was kidnapped.

2-patta-promoframe1146.jpg
Celeste Nurse CBS News

They called her Zephany - but her parents Morne and Celeste Nurse only knew her for three days before she was stolen from her hospital cot.

"It's heartbreaking as a mom," said Celeste Nurse. "You can't stop thinking about her."

The Nurses had three more children. But they never gave up hope, celebrating their missing daughter's birthday every year.

Then 17 years later their daughter Cassidy came home from high school with some remarkable news: there was a girl at school that resembled her.

"I wanted to get to know this girl," said Morne.

morne-nurse.jpg
Morne Nurse CBS News

He also managed to take photographs of the girl.

"That's when we saw the photo of her and I burst out," said Celeste. "I got this feeling inside, I just grabbed my heart and said this is my daughter. This is my daughter!"

The police were brought in and a nail-biting six week wait began during which DNA tests were taken. Then a detective phoned and told Celeste, "you are a mother again."

Celeste - overwhelmed by emotions - could hardly believe it. It turned out Zephany had been living just a few miles away.

"I burst out into tears when I saw her," said Celeste. "I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop crying. I said,'finally I found you, for 17 years I have been looking for you. I found you finally, you're mine again.'"

pattamissing-transferframe304.jpg
Celeste Nurse holds her baby Zephany in 1997 before the kidnapping took place NURSE FAMILY

And this young mother who always believed she'd find her daughter is now prepared to forgive.

"When I see the woman that took her, I want to give her a hug," said Celeste. "When I see her I want to say thank you, you've done a good job, look at my daughter she's beautiful inside and out."

The woman who stole Zephany and raised her as her own is facing charges of kidnapping and will appear in court on Friday. Zephany -- who grew up under a different name -- has been taken to a place of safety by social welfare officials until a decision is made about her future.