When new mother Elsje Pretorius stepped into the hospital shower on Thursday, leaving her five-day-old baby girl, Nadine, sleeping peacefully in the maternity wing, she never thought any harm would reach her baby.
But when she returned to her hospital room at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, she found Nadine’s cot empty.
In a panic, Ms Pretorius and the nurse on duty told security Nadine was missing, The Sunday Star Times reports.
Police watched CCTV footage and saw a couple escaping the locked maternity unit with the newborn as another family entered.
Eight hours later they rescued Nadine at a flat in Manurewa, in which two baby bassinets were set up — and arrested two individuals in connection with the kidnapping.
The Sunday Star Times reports 31-year-old Fa’atiga Joe Manutui and his partner, a 26-year-old woman, were arrested and charged with unlawfully taking a child with intent to cause her to be confined.
The details that subsequently emerged in the investigation were nothing short of disturbing: The Sunday Star Times reports a 26-year-old woman had been excitedly telling her landlord she was expecting twins, and on 13 September the woman allegedly sent a text indicating she was in hospital having twins.
“When she moved in it was always on the understanding that she would have to move out when she gave birth,” the house manager said of the woman, describing her as “a pleasant girl”.
“She told me she was having twin boys and that one was a little bit smaller than the other and that she kind of had to start looking after herself a bit better.”
A nurse also reportedly told Ms Pretorius she had seen a woman hanging around outside the private hospital room. “She must have been waiting for the right time,” Ms Pretorius told The Sunday Star Times.
Ms Pretorius still has no answers about why her baby was taken — but says she and her husband Conrad were just thrilled to have her back.
“Nadine was totally content. I could see the colour in her cheeks was good. She’d been eating and sleeping,” Ms Pretorius said. “She’d been given some formula.”
The woman accused of taking Nadine appeared at Manukau District Court on Friday, and has been given an interim name suppression while her mental health was assessed. Manutui also appeared in court and was released on bail.
Ms Pretorius says she does not have any hard feelings towards her baby’s kidnappers.