The parents of a newborn baby have described their worst nightmare when they found their little girl's cot empty - later being told by police it was a premeditated kidnapping by their nanny.
The bizarre case in the Auckland suburb of Epsom began when Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu, 21, tricked her friends and family into believing she was pregnant.
She hosted a fake baby shower, donned a pregnancy suit and made up an adoption claim before stealing the baby girl she was supposed to be caring for at the family home on August 9 last year.
Her now 19-year-old cousin Sydnee Shaunna Taulapapa helped her, sneaking into the house and snatching the baby, and was today sentenced in the High Court at Auckland by Justice Peter Woodhouse.
She was discharged without conviction for kidnapping and burglary but ordered to complete 400 hours' community work and pay $2000 reparation to the baby's parents if they accepted it or to a children's charity.
The baby's father left the courtroom in disgust after hearing the sentence.
Manukau-Togiavalu's pregnancy delusion had led Taulapapa to be talked into kidnapping the 11-day-old baby as her parents slept, the court heard.
The baby's father, still shaken by the horror of finding his daughter taken, read his and his wife's victim impact statements to the court today.
"It was the worst seven hours of my life," the mother's letter read.
"Many people have called this a parent's worst nightmare."
The first-time mum explained how she and her husband had trusted Manukau-Togiavalu, who was recommended to them by a nanny agency. Taulapapa had also provided a character reference for her cousin.
The name of the agency, which was also duped by Manukau-Togiavalu, was suppressed.
Early that August morning, Manukau-Togiavalu began yelling: "The house has been robbed! The house has been robbed!"
"In my heart I knew straight away something was wrong and Nadene was not telling the truth," the father told the court.
He said he found the back door to his home open "and our precious baby was not in her cot".
Later, while reviewing CCTV the father's worst fears were realised.
"It was like watching something from a horror movie, I saw a female wearing a balaclava, peering through our back window," he said.
"She exited through the same door carrying bags and the most precious thing in our lives."
The video shows the kidnapper then use a remote control to open the gate.
The young woman in the balaclava was Taulapapa.
At that moment the father knew his nanny was the prime suspect.
"Where's our baby, Nadene?" He recalled asking the young woman.
About 80 police launched a major search for the baby, who was returned about seven hours later.
The mother described Manukau-Togiavalu sitting in the back of a police car after her arrest as being "very calm and very quiet".
"I believe she had no remorse," the mother said. "She is a danger to children and society as a whole."
The mum said she's suffered ongoing stress and anxiety as a result of her baby girl being taken and now feels that she needs to stay in same room as her daughter.
"Almost six months later I still sleep with a baby monitor on my pillow next to my head and wake often to check that she is still there," she said.
She was disturbed to later discover Manukau-Togiavalu and Taulapapa had planned the kidnapping for many months.
"What person could ever think this is okay?"
Taulapapa's counsel Annabel Cresswell earlier said Manukau-Togiavalu has serious health issues and had fabricated a story where she'd convinced her family and friends that she'd been forced to give up her baby.
She said today that Manukau-Togiavalu, who had pretended to be pregnant for months, had explained that she had given birth to a child but forgotten that she'd signed adoption papers.
Manukau-Togiavalu then told her family she was to stay with the new parents to help care for the newborn.
Cresswell said Taulapapa, who was in New Zealand from Australia for a family event at the time, and Manukau-Togiavalu's family were "completely taken in" by the lie.
The lawyer sought a discharge without conviction for her client.
Crown prosecutor Kirsten Lummis said there must have been a growing suspicion from the family after Manukau-Togiavalu's baby shower was held for a boy, but she then claimed she gave birth to a girl.
Manukau-Togiavalu also claimed that the baby's "new parents" had paid her an adoption fee of up to $20,000 and offered Taulapapa $1000 to help her.
"The truth is stranger than fiction," Lummis said.
Justice Woodhouse said he was satisfied that Taulapapa was deeply remorseful but that her work and career opportunities will likely be "permanently blighted".
Manukau-Togiavalu is also the cousin of rising league star Luke Tipene who was killed by Vincent Skeen, and gave evidence at Skeen's murder trial.
She will be sentenced this year in the Auckland District Court.