Directed by Simon Wood and François Verster, “Girl Taken” (2022) is a documentary film about the kidnapping and disappearance of an infant child from the hospital in Cape Town, where she was born. It is a touching story about two people who, after falling in love at a very young age, had a child that they never expected but couldn’t experience the joys of parenthood after she was born. Although Morné and Celeste Nurse have children again, they are never able to let go of the memory of their first child, whom they name Zephany, and celebrate her birthday every year, hoping that she will somehow find her way back to them again. Heartbroken and devastated, the parents spend more than seventeen years trying to find their long-lost daughter until finally, fate brings them close to her again. The film vividly documents their journey through all their hardships, the media coverage of the kidnapping, and all the police and private investigations carried out to find her.
‘Girl, Taken’ Story
The story begins with Celeste and Morné narrating how they came to be together and how their first daughter, Zephany, was born. They had met each other at a very young age when Morné was only eighteen, and Celeste hadn’t yet completed school, and a few months later, Celeste came to know that she was pregnant with her first child. Being concerned about their future, Morné suggested that they get an abortion, but Celeste refused, and they had the child. Zephany was born in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, and on April 30, 1997, only two days after the child’s birth, while Celeste was under the influence of morphine, a person claiming to be her Nurse asked to pick up the baby from its cot, but that was the last time anyone from her family would see her for more than seventeen years. Both Morné and Celeste kept on releasing newspaper and television articles, pleading with the kidnapper to return their baby safely and promising that no action would be taken against the person or persons responsible for the act, but it was as if no one had seen or heard anything about the child. News spread quickly about the little girl’s disappearance, creating an atmosphere of citywide terror. The maternity ward of the hospital she was taken from was put on high alert, and the mothers refused to leave their newborns alone, even for a moment. A sketch of the suspected person was released to the media by the police to help locate her, yet there was no progress made on the case, and as time went by, the authorities gradually started losing hope of finding the child, as a newborn grows at a rapid rate and the chances of identifying her just by looking were getting slimmer by the day. But her parents refused to give up and kept on investigating her disappearance.
The couple would later have another girl child, Cassidy, and two more children, Joshua and Micah, but they never healed of their pain at having lost their firstborn. They would celebrate her birthday every year, hoping that she would come back to them someday, and they told all their other children that they had an elder sister, Zephany, whom they must remember. As Cassidy gets enrolled in Zwaanswyk High School, situations start turning as she encounters another girl by the name of Miché Solomon, who looks exactly like her, and they immediately become friends. When asked about her birthday by Morné, she says that her birthday was on April 30, 1997, the exact date that Zephany had gone missing from the hospital, which shook him to the core of his heart. Morné started going through her social media profiles, discovering her parents and her acquaintances, and the authorities revived their investigation, discovering some serious unexplained fallacies in her birth certificate, triggering a DNA test.
‘Girl, Taken’ Ending: The Daughter Lost And Found
The police and social workers, having gathered all the evidence, confronted the parents of Miché Solomon at their home, asking the mother, Lavona Solomon, whether Miché was, in fact, her daughter. Lavona denied all accusations against her and quite confidently consented to the DNA test, which, when the results came in, showed that Miché’s DNA was a 99.96% match with the DNA of Morné and Celeste, proving her to be their long-lost daughter. But, even though the truth was out, all was not well, as Zephany was now a grown woman with her own memories, her own personality, and her own personal choices. Morné and Celeste weren’t together anymore, and this proved difficult for Zephany, so she decided to go back to her childhood home, the Solomons. The High Court of Cape Town was tasked with trying Lavona Solomon for the kidnapping charge, but according to Celeste, Lavona did not appear to be remorseful during her trial. But Zephany’s heart broke watching the person who brought her up being dragged through court and harassed by the media. However, Lavona stuck to her story while testifying in front of the court, stating that she had a miscarriage, which she hid from her husband, and when she was informed about a baby that wasn’t wanted by the family, she took it upon herself to take it home as her own. As the final hearing approached, Morné and Celeste’s relationship with Zephany kept getting more and more strained until she cut off all contact with them altogether.
After the verdict was passed in the Zephany Nurse kidnapping case, Lavona Solomon was convicted and denied bail, officially making her a criminal. This is when the film shifts gears and focuses on the trauma of the daughter herself, who, although she was taken away from her biological parents at birth, did not have any memory of it or of a childhood spent in the Nurse’s household. After being thrown suddenly into the eye of the storm, she slowly starts questioning her identity and cannot forget the upbringing that she received at her childhood home, calling Lavona and Michael Solomon her mother and father. She recalls Lavona’s struggles while she was growing up and how kind she was in life in spite of the several misfortunes that she had suffered, including her miscarriage. To Celeste and Morné, although their daughter still exists, her whole identity has changed, and she can no longer be identified as Zephany, as only Miché exists. And even though ‘justice’ was served in the end, Celeste and Morné did, in fact, lose their daughter forever. Miché, however, did attempt to amend her relationship with Cassidy, her other siblings, and her biological parents after her daughter, Sophia, was born, which came as a gift to the families, joining them together. In the end, forgiveness becomes the greatest gift, as a broken family is made whole again.