Baby kidnapper escapes conviction - judge says she was misled by manipulative nanny

A young woman has been discharged without conviction for kidnapping an 11-day-old baby from an Auckland home last year.

Sydnee Shaunna Toulapapa, 19, crept into an Epsom home wearing a balaclava and stole the newborn on August 9.

The girl was found safe about six hours later after a large police search.

Toulapapa pleaded guilty to kidnapping and burglary in March. She was discharged without conviction in the High Court at Auckland on Friday, although she was ordered to carry out 400 hours of community service and pay $2000 in reparations to the family or a charity.

The court heard Toulapapa was coaxed into taking the baby by her 21-year-old cousin Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu, who was the baby's nanny.

Manukau-Togiavalu wore a fake pregnancy belly for nine months and held a baby shower to convince family and friends she was having a baby.

The court heard Manukau-Togiavalu told Toulapapa she had given up her baby for adoption but regretted it and wanted the baby back. Manukau-Togiavalu said she was living with the adoptive parents to help breastfeed the child. Toulapapa asked Manukau-Togiavalu to help her get the baby back.

The court has previously heard Manukau-Togiavalu had serious health problems and had a delusion that she was pregnant.

The baby's father described the kidnapping as evil and said learning his newborn had been taken was "something out of a horror movie".

He described Manukau-Togiavalu as a "nightmare nanny" who left a trail of destruction. The father, who can't be named, has received counselling for post-traumatic stress and says he lives with the ongoing fear his baby will be harmed.

Toulapapa had been living in Australia and was in New Zealand on holiday at the time.

Her lawyer Annabel Cresswell says her client was wilfully blind and was taken in by someone who was a liar. She denied there was any financial incentive and she genuinely believed she was helping.

She said Toulapapa genuinely believed the child belonged to her cousin and that she was extremely remorseful.

Justice Woodhouse said it's difficult to conceive a more traumatic experience than having your child abducted while you slept.

However, he highlighted the fact Toulapapa had been misled by Manukau-Togiavalu, who he described as manipulative and determined.

In handing down his sentence, Justice Woodhouse said he took into account the fact Toulapapa had no previous convictions, her age, remorse and her early guilty plea.

Manukau-Togiavalu also pleaded guilty to kidnapping and burglary in March. She will be sentenced in July.