In July 1994, two baby girls, Manon and Mathilde, were born at a clinic in the French city of Cannes.
Both had jaundice, but there weren’t enough incubators to go around, so they were put in the same incubator, head to toe, under a UV lamp.
A nursing assistant, later described as a “chronic alcoholic”, was looking after the babies. At some point she got the two little girls mixed up.
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Sophie Serrano was the mother of Manon.
She was 18 years old, and Manon was her first child with her partner Davy.
When Sophie was handed back a baby, dressed in Manon’s clothes, after a night spent under the UV light, she questioned why the little girl looked different. Her skin tone was darker and her hair was longer.
“I was told that the rays could make hair grow,” Sophie later told Closer. “Naively, I believed it.”
Elsewhere in the clinic, a mother from the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, the same age as Sophie, was given Sophie’s daughter Manon instead of her own daughter, Mathilde.
Her concerns about her baby’s hair looking shorter were brushed off with a similar story about the effects of UV light.
As Manon grew into a toddler, her skin tone became darker and her hair curlier. Sophie didn’t question it, assuming that her Spanish ancestry was showing through in her daughter.
But Manon was bullied about her appearance by the other kids in the village. People joked that she was “the postman’s daughter”.
“The gossips claimed that Manon was not her father’s daughter, and I had surely cheated on him with someone else,” Sophie said.
Davy became suspicious that Sophie had been unfaithful. The couple drifted apart.
Sophie met a new man, Joe, and had another child, Laura, but that relationship also ended.
Later, when she was in another relationship, with Olivier, Davy demanded a DNA test, saying he no longer wanted to pay child support.