Thirty years ago two girls were born in a South Island maternity ward.
One baby was born to a local businessman and his wife.
The other, to a beneficiary.
The babies were healthy and the parents were happy.
But two years later both families' worlds came crashing down around them when it was revealed the infants were switched in the hospital and were being raised by the wrong parents, in the wrong lives.
Thirty years on from New Zealand's only baby swap since the 1940s, senior journalist Anna Leask looks back at the infamous case and speaks to one of the mothers at the centre of the saga about what really happened.
It was like a plot from a Hollywood movie - but instead of the cutesy unravelling and happy ending, this story led to nothing but heartache for a South Island mother.
It began just a few hours after two baby girls were born at Timaru Hospital in March 1990.
Suppression orders mean no one in this story can be identified - so the names used here are not the real names of the women or their daughters.
Sandra was a mum to two boys already and had sadly lost a baby girl after them.
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So when her daughter was born she felt her family was finally complete.
Sandra lived in state housing, was on a benefit and moved around a lot.
She'd survived abusive relationships - among other hardships - and was trying to carve out a happy home, a solid future for her kids.
Mary and Tom came from the opposite side of the tracks.
The couple, who had a son before their little girl, were business owners who enjoyed a comfortable and stable life.
Whatever differences in lifestyle and means the parents had, their love for their baby girls was on par.
After they gave birth, the exhausted women were moved to the maternity ward when beds became free - it was a busy day at the hospital so Sandra had to wait in the delivery room for a while with her newborn, who fed well and was a calm little baby.
As the women were moved to the ward, the babies were taken from them and left in a communal area for a short time.
There, somehow, the girls were mixed up.
The hospital says it has never been established exactly what happened - either the babies were not given identification bracelets until they were in that communal area and the wrong ones were attached, or their tags fell off and were not put back on the correct infants.
Either way, the staff who attached those bracelets unwittingly changed the lives of both girls forever.
The bracelets were attached to the wrong babies.
Thus, the babies were not returned to the mothers they had come from.
And for years, nobody was any the wiser.
The girls were taken home, introduced to siblings, lived their lives for almost three years before the devastating mistake was realised.
It was only when Sandra and her partner split and he - believing the child was not his as she did not look anything like him - sought a paternity test that the truth emerged.
And by the time the girls were 10, both were living with Mary and Tom, leaving Sandra daughterless once more.
I was robbed: A mother speaks out
For the first time Sandra has spoken out in full about the infamous Timaru baby swap and has revealed she had a feeling at the time the baby she took home from hospital was not her own.
The daughter she took home - Sarah - was initially going to speak to the Weekend Herald about her life since the swap, but a personal setback meant she was not able to participate in interviews.
Her biological daughter - Jane - politely declined an interview, saying she was "not interested".
Jane gave birth to her first child recently and is focused on her own family and future, with no intention of giving her past any publicity.
Mary did not engage with the Weekend Herald - but was aware of multiple attempts to contact her.
Sandra said she decided she was finally ready to speak after three decades of silence, other than a couple of short interviews through her lawyer after details of the swap went public.
"This is my life," she said.
"It was so hard back then - and it still is.
"I was robbed.
"I don't feel like I was robbed, I was robbed… I went and had a baby and that baby was taken forever."
When the Weekend Herald visited Sandra at her South Island home earlier this year she was nervous, her hand shaking as she drew heavily on a cigarette and tried to make small talk before the interview.
This was huge for her, she said.
The "situation" with the babies had changed, if not, in part, ruined her life.
It still affected her every day and she had to work hard to keep her mind busy, to not think about it and spiral into dark and sad places where she was hopeless and so, so sad.
The swap - how it happened
Sitting at her kitchen table gripping a steaming mug of milky tea, Sandra started telling her story from the start.
"When Sarah was born, I was over the moon," she said.
"I had the two boys, and after losing a wee girl, I was really happy.
"I thought I was having another boy… so when [she was] born I turned around and said I would call the baby Matthew - and the nurses said they didn't think that would work.
"When they said 'It's a girl,' well, I just cried."
Sandra was handed her baby girl and immediately fell in love.
The newborn fed well and was a quiet and content newborn.
"There were no beds up in the ward so we stayed in the delivery room for a while," Sandra recalled.
"Then at lunchtime, a couple of beds became spare, so we moved.
"They put the baby out in the corridor and we went upstairs ... my baby definitely was not tagged at that stage. The tags were there but they were not on her.
"I had a shower and then went to feed the baby again and she wouldn't feed ... I had a closer look at her and thought something wasn't right.
"My daughter had a birthmark ... and this baby didn't.
"I mentioned to the nurses that I didn't think this baby was mine and I got told not to be so bloody stupid."
Sandra said from then on the baby was an "absolute nightmare" to feed.
"Her first feed she was really good, happy, content - a quiet little girl," she said.
"The one I took home wasn't any of those things ... I just knew it wasn't right."
I knew she wasn't mine
After a few days, Sandra was discharged from hospital.
She said she told several other nurses she thought her baby had been swapped with another but her concerns were brushed aside.
She was told that babies change, that a good first feed was not indicative of any future feeds.
But they couldn't convince Sandra.
Sarah - unlike her siblings and both parents - was fair-haired and light-eyed.
And she just did not "feel" like Sandra's daughter, not like the wee girl first put into her arms after the birth.
"I mentioned to my mother the day she came to pick us up from the hospital and mum said 'Don't worry about it,'" Sandra said.
"My sister was blond-haired and blue-eyed and my partner at the time's brother was too so I thought maybe it was a throwback to them?
"I just got on with it ... I had to ... I knew she wasn't mine but I just got on with it."
Just before Sarah turned 2 Sandra and her partner broke up.
"My partner accused me of cheating on him - I think he thought I'd been with his brother and the baby was his," she lamented.
"I never did."
The former couple and Sarah all went for blood tests to establish paternity.
Sandra and Sarah ended up having three tests as the results were not what anyone expected.
"The first test they thought they got the blood muddled up," she said.
"I went for a second test and they accused me of putting another child in her place.
"So I had a lawyer at the third test.
"When they got the results from that one, I got a phone call at home from my lawyer ... he asked me if I was sitting down and I told him no.
"He said 'maybe you should' and then he just said to me straight out - "She's not yours."
"I said 'No, you're joking' and he said 'No, I am not joking ... it's not your child at all.'
"Like I'd been saying all along, she was not my child ... Someone finally believed me."
Sandra said the news was like "getting a kick fair to the stomach".
Finding Jane - a mother's desperate search
As she reeled over the confirmation of what she had always suspected, her lawyer swung into action and contacted the hospital.
A major investigation uncovered the error and the hunt for Sandra's biological child began.
It would be a year before the other family was identified and confirmed.
First, they had to identify every mother who gave birth to a baby girl around the same time as Sandra.
Then there was the painstaking process of locating them, engaging with them and establishing a firm DNA connection.
It never was established just how the little girls were given to the wrong mothers.
"When we looked back at the movement of the mothers and the babies we came to the conclusion it probably happened that day before they moved upstairs to the antenatal unit," said then-hospital chief executive Robbie Gilchrist in an interview with the Sunday Star Times.
"There wasn't sufficient documentation for us to know what happened when.
"What's most likely is that there was some delay in putting the name tags on -it's also possible the name tags slipped off."
Gilchrist took it upon himself to confirm the swap to both families.
"It's probably the biggest and most difficult crisis I've ever had to deal with," he said soon after.
"It's your worst nightmare really - we can't really imagine what it's like to discover something like that."
Sandra said waiting for answers, waiting to find her real child while raising Sarah - who she adored - was devastating.
"I just learned to get on with it - I still classed her as mine, I still loved her like I loved the other kids," she told the Herald.
"We had to set up meetings with the lawyers and the hospital ... We had to find my real baby. It was horrible.
"I was looking through the newspapers - every paper I could get my hands on to try and find a birth notice or something.
"I was just looking for a wee girl born on the same day as Sarah."
The next step - after everything had been confirmed - was bringing Sandra to meet Mary and Tom and to work out what would happen next.
It was a bizarre, unprecedented and hugely emotional situation that no one was prepared for.
Sandra pained over the decisions she may have to make - and knew that while she desperately wanted her own child, she did not want to give Sarah up.
She suspected the other parents would feel the same.
The process, the waiting was torture.
"I had to give my lawyer photographs of Sarah so he could send them off to the other family," she said.
"Then we met, just the adults ... They talked about what my daughter was doing, showed me photographs.
"I just about cried, she was just like her brothers.
"I knew immediately that if the child had been there I would want to grab her and just take her home - and they probably wanted to do exactly the same."
That meeting, with Sandra's sister present for support, happened in December 1993.
Bittersweet - when two families collide
Then in January 1994 the families came together to introduce "their" girls to each other.
It was in a park in Timaru just before Christmas.
It was awkward, nerve-wracking.
No one knew what to expect, what to say, how to react or what the heck would happen that day.
"Sarah ran up to them like she had known them for her whole entire little life," said Sandra.
"But my daughter was a lot like me - she wasn't sure.
"I am not the sort of person to rush to children - I sit back and wait for them to come to me.
"I felt very, very awkward. I spoke to her and when she got used to me she came over and said hello. But I didn't cuddle her."
The girls played, the parents talked, sharing the details of the babies they had taken home and the children they were raising.
"When it came time to leave - do you think Sarah would leave? She kicked up one heck of a fuss at the park.
"She just wanted to go with them and stay with them, then and there."
Sandra and the other couple decided not to tell the girls too much too soon.
They still had to work out their next steps, how to navigate their very much unknown future.
They didn't want to disrupt the girls' lives any more than they had to.
"Just after the girls met the other father made a book for each of them explaining what had happened," said Sandra.
"For a start, that is all they knew.
"And then it went to court."
Sandra took legal action against Timaru Hospital and a confidential settlement was reached including compensation for each family and a trust fund for each child.
That settlement was reportedly finalised the day before the girls turned 6.
Meanwhile, the families were working out a custody arrangement.
Rather than force another swap, they decided to keep the girl they each took home - but spend time with their biological child as much as they could.
"It's so scary, you can't wake up in the morning without thinking about it," Tom told the Sunday Star Times at the time.
"I'm looking at my family's life ... It's the rest of their lives. We don't want to make the wrong decision."
Big decisions, bigger hurt
Sandra said they agreed the children would be swapped over for holiday periods.
She says she held up her end of the agreement, but every time she was supposed to have Jane she would be told "she doesn't want to come".
"I didn't get her school holidays or Christmas holidays ... there was no chance of me ever building a bond with her," she said.
"Then, they wanted more and more time with Sarah ...I always gave them their child but I was never given mine, I was always told 'she doesn't want to go'.
"It really hurt, it was gut-wrenching and it still is. It makes me so angry.
By the time the girls were 10, they were both living with Mary and Tom.
Sandra explained her side of events.
She said her sister lived overseas and became unwell.
"I went over there to pack her and the kids up and bring them home," she said.
"I left Sarah with her birth parents and my sons with their godmother. I knew she would be well looked after, I thought I had nothing to worry about.
"I was away for a month and when I came home I thought I'd have some time getting the house organised before I got the kids.
"When I rang them to get Sarah back I was told 'she doesn't want to come home'."
Sandra was crushed but felt she could do little to fight what was happening.
"So she was with them for 18 months and then they went for full custody," she said.
Details of the case cannot be reported for legal reasons.
But Mary and Tom were successful with their custody bid and both girls lived with them full time.
After the court case, Sandra told media that the result was painful.
"Of course it hurts," she said.
"I'd love to have her back - and if I can't have her, I'd love to have my own natural daughter back."
Her lawyer added that the custody arrangement was "reached reluctantly" and was "based on practicalities".
Tom also spoke briefly about the legal situation.
"They're living here, but there's nothing official to say that's forever," he said at the time.
"I've been walking on feathers for years, scared to move ... it's not a happily ever after story yet."
Sandra said after that final day in court she had "no relationship with either of the girls".
"I took Jane down to meet her dad when she was [a teenager], we spent a bit of time together then.
"I went to her 21st, her wedding. I went to the hospital the day after she had her own baby.
"But those are really the only times I've had anything to do with her."
Sandra and Jane live in the same town now, along with Mary and Tom.
Sarah lives further away.
"Don't get me wrong, I see Jane around, at the supermarket and things like that and I stop and say hello," Sandra said.
"There's no animosity - there's just nothing there ... I've never been able to bond with her so there's no mother-daughter feeling, there is just nothing.
"It's like running into an old school friend ... it's really sad."
Sandra said she has not had contact with Sarah for many years.
Her oldest son speaks to his "sister" but there is no relationship between her and the baby she initially raised as her own.
Breaking news - baby swap details go public
The Timaru baby swap was thought to be the first in New Zealand since the 1940s.
District health boards around the country confirmed they were not aware of any similar incidents in their areas since the 1990 case.
And all assured that significant care was taken and rigorous measures in place to ensure no babies were swapped in modern hospitals or maternity wards.
A midwife said that babies now room in with their mothers - rather than being kept in communal nurseries like they were in the past.
"This also reduces the risk of a swap markedly," she said.
Two hours after they were born on Christmas Eve 1946, Fred George and Jim Churchman were switched.
Sixty years later the switch was discovered and DNA results confirmed the boys had been raised by the wrong families.
Given the rarity of the situation, it's not surprising that when the international media heard whispers of the Timaru case they converged on the small coastal town.
Details of the families involved and what was going on began to emerge and reporters were, naturally, desperate to speak to Sandra, Mary and Tom.
"That was really horrible," said Sandra.
"We did an interview at my lawyer's office and I thought that would be it, that I could leave there and go straight home and it would be over.
"But we arrived there, pulled into the street and we got chased to the house ... there were so many cameras, reporters.
"They all just stayed out on the street waiting."
She and the kids were "trapped" in the house and found the attention overwhelming and scary at times.
"I hated it," Sandra said.
The horror of it - the impact of the swap
She often thought about how different it would have been - how much pain, heartache and suffering could have been avoided if the hospital staff had been more attentive the day the girls were born.
"I wish they had tagged those babies properly ... God, I wish they had left mine in my room," she said.
"With my boys, I went to hospital and came home with my children.
"But with my daughter, I went home with someone else's child ... And then I had to live through the horror of it, and when everyone else found out.
"I just wanted a normal life with my kids but it's actually been quite hellish."
Sandra has struggled with mental health issues over the years, and there have been times she wanted her life to end completely.
"I'd lost my daughter at birth and to then lose the other wee girl ... I felt like I had nothing, like I had lost everything," she said.
"It was a really hard blow.
"It's just completely buggered up my whole life completely."
With counselling, antidepressants and a supportive doctor she held on and raised sons she is extremely proud of.
She had two more boys - twins - after the swap and said the hospital experience was traumatic and terrifying.
"I hated it," she said.
"I had to have an emergency caesarean section ... Mum came into theatre with me just so I had someone else there to make sure the babies were tagged properly.
"She then stayed with my sons the whole time ... I felt panicked the whole time I was in the hospital - the babies were not allowed out of my room at all.
"I was absolutely knackered but I kept a constant eye on the twins - the hospital had already stuffed up once and I wasn't about to let them do it again."
The swap had affected all her boys - the older two more so.
"They understood, they knew about the situation, they knew what was going on, they weren't kept in the dark," Sandra said.
"It upset them when she left, but like me, they had to get over it too.
"My oldest son still speaks to Sarah but the others don't have a lot to do with her.
"I find it really hard to think about, I'll always find it hard."
Sandra said every part of her life was affected by the swap.
"I don't trust anybody any more ... I'm very protective of my family, my privacy," she said.
"It could have been so much different ... I wouldn't be so stressed, on tablets, I could at least have trust in people.
"But all that was taken away."
Sandra said she was still "very angry" about the swap.
"I try not to dwell on it, I try to put it right to the back of my mind so I don't have to keep reliving it," she said.
"But I am not angry at the girls and I never have been.
"I feel sorry for them ... they have suffered too, they have been caught in the middle of it all.
"None of us asked for this, god, I know I didn't and the kids definitely didn't.
Thirty years on from the swap, Sarah and Jane appear to be living normal lives.
Jane has her own family and Sarah has a career in education.
Both are settled. Both, despite their tumultuous early years, are making their own path in the world.
"I'm just glad they've both turned out really good," said Sandra, her face softening, the pride in both girls, in spite of neither being her "daughter" plain to see.
"I just got on with life the best I could, I still do ... But it is something you never, ever actually forget about."