The accomplice of a young nanny who kidnapped a newborn baby as she slept in her cot should be convicted, the Crown argues.

Sydnee Shaunna Taulapapa, 19, donned a balaclava and crept into the home of an Epsom family to snatch a baby girl on August 9 last year.

She had been conned into helping her 22-year-old delusional cousin, Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu, fulfill her pregnancy fantasy.

Manukau-Togiavalu was working for the family as their nanny at the time.


At Taulapapa's sentencing in April, Justice Peter Woodhouse discharged her without conviction but ordered her to complete 400 hours' community work and pay $2000 to the baby's parents, or a children's charity.

The parents, who along with their daughter have permanent name suppression, told the Herald today the money had been donated to fertility research.

Last month, Manukau-Togiavalu, who went to great lengths including a hoax baby shower and pregnancy suit to convince her family and friends of her scheme, was sentenced by Judge Nicola Mathers to three years' imprisonment.

She was convicted of kidnapping, burglary, criminal harassment, making an intimate visual recording and dishonestly using a document.

Taulapapa pleaded guilty to kidnapping and burglary in April, while Manukau-Togiavalu also pleaded guilty to orchestrating the baby-snatch during the same month.

Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu wore a fake pregnancy suit to fool her family and friends. Photo / Supplied
Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu wore a fake pregnancy suit to fool her family and friends. Photo / Supplied

Today, a Court of Appeal hearing was heard in Auckland before Justices Forrie Miller, Jillian Mallon and David Gendall as the Crown sought to have Justice Woodhouse's discharge without conviction of Taulapapa overturned.

Crown solicitor James Carruthers said the Crown took issue with some of Justice Woodhouse's reasons for his decision.

He said too much weight was given to the employment consequences and prospects of securing reasonable work being blighted by a conviction.


"The Crown says it was erroneous," he said.

Carruthers added there were consequences which naturally occur from a conviction and Justice Woodhouse's decision was unsupported by evidence.

He said Taulapapa should have shown areas of career interest.

Taulapapa had expressed some desire to join the military, but the army said in a letter a conviction would not determine her chances of enlisting, the court heard.

Justice Woodhouse also considered Taulapapa's ability to return to Australia if she were convicted.

She had been holidaying in New Zealand and visiting family at the time of the kidnapping.

"In any event, the judge's conclusion was simply unreasonable," Carruthers said.

"This was still a premeditated and masked burglary of a family home and the kidnapping of the family's baby.

"It is something of a stretch to conclude the consequences are really comparable to the seriousness of the offending."

Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at the start of last month. Photo / Michael Craig
Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at the start of last month. Photo / Michael Craig

Acting as counsel for Taulapapa, Nicholas Chisnall rebutted and said Justice Woodhouse had made the correct, if "exceptionally difficult", decision given the unique circumstances of the case.

Chisnall said the judge recognised Taulapapa was manipulated by her cousin and acted out of loyalty, despair and fear.

Manukau-Togiavalu told Taulapapa she had given birth but her baby was adopted out, however, she'd made a mistake and now wanted it back.

Chisnall added it was "entirely right" a conviction will "frustrate [Taulapapa's] ability to seek employment".

"Potential employers are unlikely to look beyond the prejudicial elements of this case," he said.

The Court of Appeal judges reserved their decision, but said a factor which may weigh with them is Taulapapa's youth and immaturity.

The baby's parents were sitting in the public gallery at the hearing, along with Kirsten Lummis, the Crown lawyer who prosecuted Taulapapa and Manukau-Togiavalu.

Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu appears for sentencing as baby’s parents read victim impact statements. / Michael Craig

The bizarre case was a result of Manukau-Togiavalu's pregnancy delusions and infatuation over several months which culminated with the kidnapping on the third night she cared for the then 11-day-old baby.

She wore various pregnancy suits as part of her ploy and even explained to the manager of the costume hire store she was in a stage play with the role of a pregnant woman.

Manukau-Togiavalu's web of lies first began when she started criminally harassing her boyfriend at the time, convincing him and his family she was pregnant with his child.

She later applied through an agency to be a nanny for newborns and had Taulapapa provide a glowing reference.

Manukau-Togiavalu also used Taulapapa's email to say she had previous experience caring for babies and had cared for Taulapapa's fictitious children.

Both the High Court and District Court have heard Manukau-Togiavalu had mental health issues, and was deeply affected by the killing of her cousin - rising rugby league star Luke Tipene.

Tipene died after he was stabbed in the neck with a broken beer bottle by Vincent Skeen during a brawl outside a party in central Auckland in November 2014.

Manukau-Togiavalu held her 17-year-old cousin in her arms as he bled to death.