Virtually from the day she was born 18 years ago, Tania Ransfield has been an object of obsession for her former babysitter and her partner.
They've embarked on a custody battle which defies believe, trying to prove Tania is really their child.
When she just six months old, Tania Ransfield's parents Jennifer and Ronnie accepted what they thought was an innocent enough offer from their niece, Joanne Taikato.More stories from Today Tonight
“They asked us if they could care for Tania when I went back to work”, Jennifer said.
Over a two year period Joanne and her partner Sam Nakhle's bond with Tania became unhealthy. “When I approached Joanne and said you can't babysit Tania today because we're taking her to see a friend, well she just flipped. That brought it to a head and I said to my wife from now on, she will not be looking after Tania any more”, Ronnie said.
So fearful were the Ransfields, they took out an apprehension violence order against their former babysitter and moved Tania and her little sister Elly interstate.
“She didn’t care there was an AVO out, she just was desperate to see Tania, they were just so desperate,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer says Joanne wanted her life, she wanted her child.
“I think so, definitely, without a doubt,” she said.
It was 1999 when this bizarre emotional tug of war grabbed front page headlines - Joanne and Sam's fascination drove them into court where the Ranfields were forced to prove Tania was in fact their daughter.
“We paid the thousands of dollars to prove that Tania was our child,” Ronnie said.
And here is the craziest part - this could happen to anyone with a child. If someone comes along and decides your child is theirs, regardless of how preposterous the claims may be, the onus is on you to prove your child is yours.
The Ransfield's even had DNA tests but that wasn't enough for the babysitter stalker.
Perhaps the reason Joanne was so desperate for a child was the Westmead Fertility Clinic had destroyed her embryos which were infected with hepatitis C. She sued the clinic and won compensation but it couldn't buy her what she really wanted - a baby of her own. For twelve months the case dragged until the appointment of a new judge. “Within eight hours the case was thrown out and hence we though the harassment was over,” Ronnie said
But they were wrong - just months out from Tania's 18th birthday, 16 years since she held her in her arms, Joanne and Sam have returned with vengence.
“Every day she would start by hey bub how are you, I miss you, hope you've been good - and she would go on and say how much she loved me”, Tania said.
Joanne used an alias to befriend Tania on Facebook where she posted dozens of pictures of her as a baby and eventually got her mobile phone number. “I don't remember Joanne, from a young age, I don't remember her at all”, Tania said.
For months Tania has been flooded with texts. Tania says she was afraid they would kidnap her. “It was only at the start of this year when I approached my parents and said we have to do something”, she said.
Joanne and Sam live in a dilapidated house in Sydney's south west and their property is known to police. Ronnie hoped confronting his estranged niece would finally shame them into retreat – however Joanne said, “No, I won’t be stepping away”.
“I never want to hear another word from her; I don't want to see her again, I don't want to see another text message or Facebook message from her. I want to forget about her,” Tania said.
For Ronnie it's even harder to accept - his estranged niece and partner will ever leave him alone. “This is what you're dealing with - I don't know, they're pretty sick people,” Ronnie said.
His message to Joanne and Sam is: “Leave my girls alone, leave Tania and Elly alone”.