A Girl, a Selfie and the Case of a Kidnapped Baby

Zephany Nurse is her real name, but since she was kidnapped at birth and raised by another woman, she always thought her name was Miché Solomon. That is until she was 17 years old. She then took an unwitting selfie with a friend, which took her down a path that would essentially turn her life around. It was something she never would have expected in a million years.

Zephany Nurse posing in a leather jacket and her hair blowing in the wind / Lavona Solomon and Miché as a young girl holding toys

Source: Facebook, Miche Solomon (Zephany Nurse) / Pinterest

The poor girl discovered that the woman whom she knew as her mother had actually kidnapped her as a newborn. She then became the target of persistent and intrusive media attention. She was taken out of her own home and watched the woman she knew as her mother go to prison. Her life went on a downward spiral after that. And she didn’t ask for any of it.

This is her story…

Kept Secret for 17 Years

In April 1997, in Cape Town, South Africa, a woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform walked out of a hospital. She was carrying a three-day-old newborn whom she had taken from the maternity ward as the infant’s mother lay sleeping. This event, as heinous as it is, remained a secret for a shocking 17 years. It was only by chance, nearly two decades later, that the teenager discovered her true identity.

Lavona holding Miché as a baby while sitting on a bed

Source: Pinterest

Fast forward to 2015. At this point in the story, the girl’s name was Miché Solomon, and it was the first day of her final semester at Zwaanswyk High School. On that January day, 17-year-old Miché was surrounded by all these students excitedly telling her about a new girl named Cassidy Nurse…

A Strangely Familiar Friend

What’s all the huff about? Well, Cassidy was three years younger than Miché, but the two looked nearly identical. Initially, Miché didn’t think too much of it. So what? Another girl looks like her? Not that big of a deal, right? Well, that girl proved to be a lot closer to her than she ever would have imagined.

Cassidy and Miché posing together for a selfie

Source: Flickr

When the two girls met in the hallway, Miché felt an instant connection that she just couldn’t explain. “I almost felt like I knew her,” she recalled later on. “It was so scary. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like this.” Despite the age gap, Miché and Cassidy started hanging out together (which in high school is basically taboo).

Like Two Peas in a Pod

Michelle recalled those days in high school with her new friend: “I would say, ‘Hey, baby girl!’ And she would say, ‘Hey, big sis!’” She explained how sometimes, they would be in the bathroom together and brush their hair, apply makeup – all that “girly” stuff. When people would ask Miché and Cassidy if they were sisters, the girls would joke around, saying, “We don’t know, maybe in another life!”

Miché and Cassidy posing for a selfie / Miché and Cassidy posing together for a selfie with duckfaces

Source: Facebook (left and right)

One day, the girls took a selfie together and showed it to their friends. Their friends even asked Miché if she was sure she wasn’t adopted. “Don’t be crazy!” she insisted. At home, both Miché and Cassidy showed their families the picture too. That’s when a can of worms was opened…

An Important Question

Miché’s mother, Lavona, who called her daughter Princess and took her to the mall and the movies, remarked how similar the girls looked. Her father, Michael, even said he recognized his daughter’s new friend. As it turns out, Cassidy’s father had an electrical store where Michael would sometimes shop.

Celeste and Zephany Nurse posing together in red dresses

Source: Facebook / Celeste Nurse

But when it came to Cassidy’s parents, Celeste and Morné Nurse, their reactions to the photo were a bit different. They gazed intensely at the photo. Then, they told Cassidy that they had a question for Miché. And so, the next time the two teens got together, Cassidy asked Miché the question her parents told her to relay to her: “Were you born on April 30, 1997?”

Let Me Tell You a Story

Miché responded to Cassidy’s question by saying, “Why? Are you stalking me on Facebook?’” Cassidy assured her that she wasn’t stalking her. She just wanted to know when Miché was born. Miché then said yes; she was born on April 30, 1997. A few weeks later, Miché was called out of her math lesson and summoned to the principal’s office.

Zephany Nurse as a baby in the hospital

Source: Pinterest

At the principal’s office, two social workers were waiting for Miché. That’s when they told her a story about a newborn baby girl called Zephany Nurse, who was abducted from Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town 17 years ago. They also told Miché, who didn’t understand why they were telling her this, that the baby was never found.

Could It Be?

Miché sat there and listened to the story these social workers were telling her, letting the story unfold. Still, she couldn’t understand why they were telling her all of this. The social workers then explained that there was evidence suggesting that Miché could potentially be that very child who was stolen from her mother all those years ago.

Lavona and Miché as babysitting in the woods next to a tent

Source: Pinterest

Miché instantly tried to set matters straight, thinking she had nothing to do with this. She explained that she wasn’t born at the Groote Schuur Hospital; she was born at the Retreat Hospital about 20 minutes away. At least, that’s what she had been told. In fact, it was even cited on her birth certificate, she said.

There’s Just No Way…

Miché was then told that by the social workers that there was no record of her being born at the Retreat Hospital. Still feeling as though this was clearly all a big mistake, Miché had no choice but to agree to do a DNA test. “I had so much belief in the mother who raised me. She would never lie to me, especially about who I am and where I come from,” Miché stated.

Miché Solomon with two other men

Source: YouTube

Miché was sure the DNA test was going to come back negative. But the reality of the situation proved otherwise. The test results came back the very next day, and Miché was in for a real “180.”

Miché Is Zephany

The results of the DNA test undeniably proved that Miché Solomon was, in fact, Zephany Nurse. She was the baby the social workers had told her about – the poor infant who was snatched from her own mother in the Groote Schuur Hospital in 1997. That baby was her. As you can imagine, it was a lot for her to take in.

Zephany Nurse and Cassidy Nurse taking a selfie together

Source: Facebook / Miché Solomon (Zephany Nurse)

“I sat there in shock,” Miché recalled of that moment. “My life was out of control.” It’s easy to understand how such a story would make Miché the talk of the town. The story of a stolen baby, now a young woman, found by chance almost two decades later went straight to the headlines in South Africa. But it wasn’t easy for Miché to live through it…

Just Like That

Miché’s life was immediately changed and went in a direction she wasn’t at all prepared for. Suddenly, she was told that she wouldn’t be able to return to her home. In fact, she had another three months before she would turn 18 and thus be allowed to make her own decisions as a legal adult. But, for the time being, she was forced to stay in a safe house.

Celeste Nurse and Miche Solomon

Source: Facebook / Celeste Nurse

After all, the woman she had always believed was her mother was arrested. “That broke me,” Miché said. “I needed her. I needed to ask her, ‘Why? What’s going on?’ I was so overwhelmed that I belonged to someone else.” Sadly, this poor girl lost her family and her identity – just like that.

Her Father, Her Rock

Miché was there when Lavona’s husband, Michael – the man she knew as her father – was questioned by the police. Miché remembers seeing the stress in his face. She could see his bloodshot eyes, “and I was really scared.” The police were questioning him, of course, because they needed to know whether he was part of the kidnapping or not.

Michael and Miché as babysitting on the edge of a body of water

Source: Flickr

“My father is soft and gentle,” Miché said. “He’s my rock, he’s my hero, he’s my daddy, he’s the man.” She witnessed this other man – the cop – making her father “look like such a small child.” Michael was saying, “No, I didn’t do this. Miché is my daughter – how can she not be my daughter? I wasn’t part of this.”

Faking a Pregnancy and a Birth

Ultimately, the police never found any evidence that Michael Solomon ever knew that Miché was taken from her biological parents, and he was thus released from custody. According to Michael, Lavona had been pregnant. The likelihood is that she covered up a miscarriage and faked the remainder of her pregnancy.

Michael and Lavona Solomon sitting and laughing at court

Source: Pinterest

She then stole Zephany Nurse and brought her home as if she were her own baby, essentially pretending to be the child’s mother from that point on. But now, Lavona Solomon was in custody and awaiting trial for the very serious charges of kidnapping and fraudulently claiming to be the biological mother of the girl she kidnapped.

Eerily Close to Home

Celeste and Morné Nurse, the biological parents of Zephany, were understandably devastated and terribly confused and frustrated. Nonetheless, they went on to have three more children. Still, they never stopped looking for their first-born and would continue to celebrate her birthday every year.

Celeste Nurse and Zephany Nurse as a newborn baby in the hospital together

Celeste Nurse and Zephany Nurse. Source: Pinterest

They did so individually, as well, even after they divorced. Little did they know that their stolen child was growing up so close to them that it makes the whole story even more unbelievable. The Solomon home is a mere 5 km from the Nurses’ home. When Miché was little, she would run around the field that sat opposite the Nurses’ house, where Michael played soccer.

She Felt Nothing

After this extraordinary turn of events, and all thanks to a random selfie, the Nurses’ prayers were finally answered. At the local police station, Miché was then reunited with her biological parents, with social workers on hand. “They hugged me and squeezed me and started crying,” Miché remembered.

Zephany Nurse and Celeste Nurse embracing on the beach in winter coats

Source: Facebook / Miche – Zephany Nurse

But she didn’t feel at all comfortable. It didn’t feel right to her. They may have been her biological parents, but they were a bunch of strangers to Miché – her friend Cassidy’s parents – not hers. “I was like, ‘Just go with it because it’s a shame for these people, they have been through a lot,’” she later admitted. She also admitted that she “felt nothing… I didn’t feel that I’d missed them.”

Righting the Wrongs

Can you blame her, though? The girl never met these people. Heck, she didn’t even know she was living in the wrong home for her entire life. So it’s only natural that she didn’t feel the same way her biological parents did. Still, Miché was in emotional turmoil. Her life was flipped upside down.

Celeste and Morne Nurse sitting on a bench outside

Source: Facebook / Morne Nurse

One set of parents was beyond happy, relieved, and desperate to make up for lost time. But they were strangers to her. The other “mom and dad” – the ones she loved – were devastated. One of them was behind bars. The whole situation was tricky. The wrongs were being “righted,” but it all still felt very wrong for Miché.

According to Lavona…

Just a few weeks prior, Miché was happily taking selfies. Now, she was a victim of the media and the legal system. From the second she was arrested, and throughout the trial, Lavona Solomon continued to deny any wrongdoing. She told the court about her attempts to conceive‚ describing her numerous miscarriages and her desperation to adopt a child.

Lavona Solomon and Miché as a young girl holding toys

Lavona Solomon and Miché. Source: Pinterest

Lavona told the court that she was “offered a baby” by a woman named Sylvia, who had been giving her fertility treatments. Sylvia allegedly told Lavona that the baby belonged to a young woman who wasn’t interested in keeping it – that she wanted the give the baby up for adoption.

Sylvia Who?

The problem (well, one of many) was that, according to the records, this Sylvia didn’t exist. It was basically all hearsay. Furthermore, nearly two decades after the kidnapping incident, a witness came forth. The witness had reportedly seen a woman dressed as a nurse, carrying the baby away, as Celeste was sleeping. This witness even picked Lavona Solomon out in a lineup.

Lavona and Miché as babysitting on the bed together

Lavona and Miché. Source: Pinterest

The judge ultimately concluded that the evidence against Lavona Solomon was overwhelming. In 2016, she was sentenced to 10 years, on counts of kidnapping, fraud and violating the Children’s Act. (To many, it doesn’t seem like a long-enough sentence.) The judge criticized her for not showing any remorse during the trial.

How Would She Cope?

“I felt like death was happening to me,” Miché said as she learned of Lavona’s fate. “I was like, ‘How am I gonna cope? How am I going to get through life without the mother that I had every day in my life?’” Later that year, she went to visit Lavona in prison.

Zephany Nurse with her sister and brother

Source: Facebook / Morne Nurse

It was then and there that they were able to speak for the first time since those two social workers told her the story. Their first visit was behind a window, of course. Miché saw her mother “in the clothing that female prisoners wear, and it broke my heart. I cried and cried.” She really wanted to know the truth – to ask her mother what the heck was going on…

Letting It All Out

Miché needed to find out what had happened on that fateful day at the hospital. She described her conversation with her mother at the prison. She told Lavona that knowing that she isn’t her blood – “that I actually belong to someone else, and that you’ve robbed them of possibilities and changed my whole destiny – hurts me.”

Zephany Nurse posing in a leather jacket and her hair blowing in the wind

Source: Facebook / Miche Solomon (Zephany Nurse)

How was she supposed to believe her mother when she lied to her? She told Lavona: “You broke your trust with me. You are going to have to come clean if you want to have a relationship with me.” Lavona responded to Miché’s emotional plea with a promise that “One day, I will tell you.” According to Miché, Lavona still says she didn’t do it, “but I think she did.”

Moving in with Michael

It’s been about five years since Miché discovered her true identity. And Miché says she doesn’t hold grudges. “Forgiving brings so much healing into your heart,” she said. The way she sees it, life must go on. Lavona knows that she forgives her, “and she knows that I still love her.” When Miché turned 18 in 2015, she even considered moving in with her biological mother but decided against it.

Michael with Miche’s daughter on the way to visit Lavona in prison

Source: Facebook

Seeing as they were divorced, her biological family unit was “messed up,” according to Miché. So she did what she felt was the obvious and most stable decision – she moved back in with Michael, the father she knew well. For her, it was her safe space – her home. It was Michael, after all, whom she believed (as opposed to Lavona).

Keeping the Name

As it turns out, Miché didn’t manage to form a relationship with her biological family, saying that at times she felt that she even hated them for “taking her mother” away from her. She continues to visit Lavona in prison in Worcester, about 120 km from her home. But it’s not such an easy feat, considering Miché is a mother herself, of two children.

Celeste and Morne Nurse taking a selfie-and hugging in the kitchen

Source: Facebook / Celeste Nurse

Lavona is half-way through her jail sentence, and Miché admits that she often wishes time would speed up. She still lives in her family home and is waiting for her mother to return. If you’re wondering, Miché has chosen to keep the name Lavona gave her.

You Can Call Her Both Names

But somehow, and in a quite mature way, despite all the psychological damage this caused her, she has managed to find peace with both of her identities. She said she hated the name Zephany in the beginning. As she put it: “She came with such force, such an uninvited invitation, so much suffering, and so much pain.” But she later came to realize that “Zephany is the truth.”

Zephany Nurse posing with her chin resting on her knuckles

Source: Facebook / Miche – Zephany Nurse

And Miché, the 17-year-old she once was, was a lie. So she learned how to balance both names. She said, “You can call me Zephany or Miché. It’s fine.” Okay, so it seems that she is handling it well. But all the women who stuck by her were understandably very worried…

Worried About Her

“I do think she’ll remain vulnerable until she starts really getting her life in order, and she has direction,” said Joan van Niekerk, Miché’s therapist. Miché also has a biography out there for those who want to read about her story: Zephany: Two Mothers, One Daughter, written by Joanne Jowell. Joanne Joan and Miché’s lawyer, Ann Skelton, all “found it difficult” when she fell pregnant for the second time in 2018.

Zephany Nurse taking a selfie in her house / Celeste and Cassidy Nurse posing together in the kitchen

Source: Facebook, Miche – Zephany Nurse / Facebook, Celeste Nurse

It hadn’t even been a year since the birth of her first child. Joan said that she and Miché spoke about the pregnancy and how she didn’t mean for it to happen. But, maybe on a deeper level, Joan suggested, it was about her desire to be loved for her own sake and not because she was a cash cow for her biological family.

At a Dark Time

Miché admitted that her pregnancies happened when she was in “a dark space” – a time when her mother wasn’t there to guide her. Since the release of her biography, Miché’s perspective as a single mom has changed. According to the author, she’s finally determined to study and work and get her life in order. Learning to trust again will be at the center of Miché’s recovery.

Miché and one of her daughters

Source: Facebook / Celeste Nurse

Celeste Nurse says she is heartbroken over Miché’s biography. Celeste, the 40-year-old mother of four, told The Daily Voice: “I’m extremely distraught, and the hurt is unbearable. Staying on my knees, this too shall pass.” In the book, Miché’s relationship between her and the Nurses was broken down…

It’s Miché’s Story After All

The book revealed that Miché found Celeste to be childish and unreliable. She also said that Morné was “a lost cause” and that he was only out to make money from their story. According to Miché, this revelation was “brutal.” According to the author Joanne Jowell, she tried to speak to the Nurses and Miché’s younger sister, Cassidy, who happened to be the catalyst in finding her.

Celeste and Morne Nurse with Zephany, her sisters, and brother on the beach

Source: Facebook / Miche – Zephany Nurse

But they reportedly refused to collaborate. It was just too difficult to get through to them, as Joanne said. “They declined to be involved with the book. We tried hard, but when I realized it was an outright ‘no,’ I came to appreciate the fact that this was, and is, Miché’s story, wholly, completely and entirely.”

A Lost Cause

Morné Nurse, the father that Miché referred to as a “lost cause,” tried to stop the book from being published. He even threatened a massive lawsuit. This threat actually came via SMS, which he sent to Jowell and copied to Miché – or Zephany as he refers to her. In the book, Miché often compares Morné to the man she considers her father, Michael.

Morne Nurse with his granddaughter sitting together in the park

Source: Facebook / Morne Nurse

“Morné, well, he’s a lost cause,” Miché told Jowell. “I just don’t love him like a dad. I’m sorry if that’s offensive or heartbreaking for him.” For her, Morné “simply fails as a father.” She said that he’s not there for his other kids either. She went further to say that she wished Cassidy and the other Nurse children could have had a father and a mother like her parents.

Nothing in Common

The Nurses were already divorced and in new relationships by the time they reunited with Miché in 2015. Miché told Jowell that she had nothing in common with them, referring to how she couldn’t get used to all the smoking and drinking. Celeste and Morné don’t feel like family to her. She admits to seeing the physical resemblance, especially with Morné, but doesn’t feel like they’re her parents.

Celeste Nurse taking a selfie while lying in bed / Morne Nurse taking a selfie while pulled over on the highway

Source: Facebook, Celeste Nurse / Facebook, Morne Nurse

Jowell said Morné’s SMS arrived after she asked Celeste to be interviewed. In the message, he told her that he and his ex-wife had a book contract of their own. His message: “If any parties should go and give information of any sort in the finding of Zephany, it will result in a massive lawsuit.” Miché was devastated by the message, saying that it only makes her feel like they’re strangers again.

As it turns out, children go missing a lot more than anyone would want to accept. In this next story, a girl vanished, only to show up 20 years later…

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