“It can’t be him!” Davedine Lucas wailed metres away from the body of her 22-month-old son as his remains were removed from a drain in Melton Rose, Cape Town, by forensic services on Tuesday night.
Neighbours held on to her as her legs gave in while standing inside the cordoned-off crime scene, nine days after she last saw her baby boy.
Metres away, locals threatened to “hand out justice”, blaming her for her youngest child’s death.
Children playing in Wittebol Street, where little Orderick Lucas lived, had kicked their ball into a nearby drain. When they tried to retrieve it, they saw the tiny body, swarming with flies.
Only hours earlier, Lucas told News24 that, despite the odds, she believed her son was still alive.
“Someone has my child. He isn’t dead – I can feel it,” she insisted, describing him as a friendly, beautiful boy who loved to dance.
Lucas had temporarily moved back to her mother’s house out of fear for her safety.
“People blame me for what happened,” she told News24 shortly before Orderick’s body was found.
Left child with friend
At the crime scene, this was confirmed as locals warned that they would “hurt her for what she did”.
Police and locals had, since his disappearance, searched for Orderick, but Lucas had said she was too scared to join in because she feared being attacked.
She, however, accompanied the authorities to the Vissershok dump site on Monday, where they trawled through the dirt in search of him.
Lucas lived with her partner – the father of three of her four children – in a backyard a few roads away.
A self-confessed drug addict, Lucas does not have custody of any of her offspring.
Her daughter lives with her paternal grandmother and Lucas’ mother, Cornelia Scheepers, is the legal guardian of her twin sons and little Orderick.
On Tuesday afternoon, only two hours before the neighbourhood kids made the gruesome discovery, she said the court had encouraged her to spend time with her children, even if they did not live with her.
She had the three children with her last weekend, and had taken Orderick along to her mother’s birthday party last Sunday, leaving the twins with her partner, Lucas said.
After leaving her mother’s house that night, she said she had given the little boy to a friend who lived close by, after she was called by a group of people who had accused her of stealing a cellphone.
“On my way there, I had walked past my friend Mel, and asked him to keep an eye on Orderick while I went to sort this out,” Lucas said.
She has known Melvin Volkwyn, a local hairstylist she referred to as “Melly”, for about a year.
‘I had no reason not to believe him’
According to Lucas, the people who called her had assaulted her when she denied stealing the cellphone. She pointed to a gash in her head as proof of being beaten up.
“I ran for my life. When I got to my mother’s house, she asked where [Orderick was] and I said I had left [him] with [my friend] before I passed out.”
The next morning, she went to collect Orderick from the friend, who ostensibly told her that the child was with Volkwyn. The 22-month-old often slept over at “Melly”, Lucas said.
She went to the police station for paperwork to lay an assault charge after the attack the night before, as well as to the Eerste River Hospital to be treated.
“I was walking with a friend when I passed Mel that night, who said my child was with my mom. I had no reason not to believe him.”
The grape picker went to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, but missed the truck that collects the employees that Thursday.
“I went to my mother’s house to visit Orderick. When I got there, she said he had never been home since the Sunday. I dropped everything and went straight to Mel and asked him where my child is.
“He then told me, in a very dramatic and defensive way, that he had given Orderick to me that Monday, asking if I had forgotten where I left him. According to him, I had shouted from outside that he must bring the child because I was going to the day hospital and he passed him to me over the high boundary wall.”
An argument ensued as Lucas insisted that he had never handed Orderick back to her. Both went to the police station to give statements and to report him missing on Thursday morning.
Volkwyn was fond of her son and often brought sweets and treats for the little boy or spent time with him when he did her mother’s hair, Lucas said.
‘I know I am telling the truth’
Volkwyn and a second suspect appeared in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.
The case against Volkwyn was postponed to April 9 for a bail application.
The charges were withdrawn against the second man, who is one of Lucas’ neighbours.
Lucas and her mother were also arrested over the weekend on charges of child neglect and abandonment, but the charges were withdrawn without being placed on the court roll.
Shortly after being told by forensic officials that the little body was indeed that of her grandson, a traumatised Scheepers said she had insisted on accompanying Lucas when she was taken in for questioning.
“I had been walking with a positive mind [that he would be found alive]. I was even willing to go and lie in a police cell with her, just so that she would talk. But she maintained: ‘Mommy, I didn’t have my child, Mel had my child.'”
Lucas had told News24 she believed Volkwyn had handed her son over to someone, thinking it was her.
“He must have been confused. I have told the police to give me a lie detector test, because I know I am telling the truth,” Lucas insisted.
She admitted she should have checked if her son was indeed home that Monday.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said a murder docket had been opened.[source: News24]