Cape Town – Armed with a diary filled with memories, the mother of missing Anastasia Lucas continues investigating her daughter’s dissaperance.
Her child is one of at least 10 cold cases involving children who went missing in Mitchell’s Plain.
As she investigates the dockets stay filed, awaiting new leads and developments, while allegedly collecting dust. In some cases, evidence is overlooked and forgotten.
Police have revealed they do not have a cold case squad.
Among the missing children are Kauthar Bobbs, 5, and Shaskia Michaels, 4, have been missing for close to 10 years while Anastasia Lucas, 7, also disappeared 24 years ago.
This week, the Weekend Argus continues its series on cold cases which rocked various communities and made news headlines.
This week, we visited the families of the three little girls in Mitchell’s Plain.
We first reflect on the case of Anastasia.
The Weekend Argus were the first to interview neighbours who were the last to see Anastasia in November 1997 playing with her best friend on Cypress Road in Westridge.
For years the story circulated that Anastasia had vanished while playing in a park.
Neighbours, who had been selling fruit and vegetables, revealed the child and her friend had helped them that afternoon to move the goods into their garage before leaving for home.
It was on Cypress Street where neighbours last saw Anastasia and later heard stories that she had been snatched by a man inside a car, while playing in the park.
Now 24 years later, Anastasia’s mother, Joanie, 62, is not holding back.
The retired nurse has been investigating her daughter’s case, armed with a diary, a log book and a box filled with photographs and memories such as the child's first attempt at writing her name in newspaper articles.
Anastasia was born at Melomed Bellville Private Hospital to parents, Malcom and Joanie.
She attended Harvester Primary School and was one of three siblings.
Malcolm died eight years ago of cancer and used to sleep in the park he believed his child had vanished from, said Lucas.
Last year, Lucas said she contacted the police asking them to look into a neighbour’s profile.
“I was at the police station and asked the police to look into a neighbour who knew my family and my child.
“I also asked for the docket to be fetched, that was in February 2020 before the pandemic but nothing happened from there,” she said
Lucas said she could not reveal too much about the neighbour’s profile publicly as it would identify him and his family.
Next she asked the police to interview a local pastor and his wife who had seen Anastasia before she went missing.
She also accused the police of dragging their feet in the case.
“This was the couple who saw Anastasia before she went missing. I wanted police to interview them because every little bit of information is important.”
The Weekend Argus joined Lucas at the pastor’s home and was met by his wife.
The wife reveals she remembers the day like it was yesterday and that Anastasia had helped them bring oranges inside their garage before leaving for home and was later reported missing.
“Anastasia and her friend who lived in the same street as us, were playing in the road here,” she said.
“My husband was not yet a pastor at that stage.
“We sold fruit and vegetables in front of our garage. I remember we were about to pack up and the girls offered to help us. They carried oranges inside the garage and my husband gave them each one a fruit as a reward.
“We told Anastasia not to leave too late as it was becoming dark, it was summer still.
“She left and not late we heard she had been taken by a man inside the car, who told her to get inside because her daddy was calling her.”
Next, we visited the house of Shaskia Michaels, who went missing while playing outside of her home on Bayern Munich Street, in Freedom Park, Tafelsig, in September 2013.
The child was in the care of her grandfather, her mother Anthea Michaels’s step-father when she went missing.
Anthea, 34, said they have been left with several unanswered questions after they were contacted last year about a body buried in the backyard in Eastridge.
This week, for the first time, she revealed some of her suspicions and that a property had been searched for Shaskia’s remains last year.
Police and forensic investigators were at the residence but could not find anything positive but are asking people to come forward to assist in the investigation.
Michaels said she was told a body of a child had been found buried in Eastridge last year, believed to be that Shaskia, allegedly buried by their relative.
“They also said on a social media page on Facebook that a body of a child had been buried there and that the person knew the child and placed her there.
“My step-dad came and said there was an argument there that there is a body buried there.
“The police were there and broke down the wendy house and searched there. But they discovered this was not the story, there was no body found there.”
Police confirmed the property was searched for Shaskia’s body but the search was fruitless.
Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said: “The property was searched, but didn’t deliver any positive results. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the investigating officer Detective Warrant Officer Wolmarans of Mitchells Plain FCS at 02 1376 9860.”
But the trail doesn't end there for the family.
Michaels said she found that a male relative in her family had acted suspiciously on the day of her daughters disappearance. She said the relative was later seen washing the clothing Shaskia wore that morning – a set of pyjamas.
This is the first time she is willingly to speak publicly about it.
“The child was in my step-father’s care, and I was told people were sitting at a gallie (fire) at the back of the house and that he had called her to come around. But she never arrived.
“Later on the same day, a male family member was found to be washing her clothing that she wore that day. Why was he washing only her clothing and not the other family’s. I didn't live there at the time.
“I am just talking about this like it is (not holding back). It didn't make sense to me, why was he washing her clothing and not the others.
“We were supposed to go for a lie detector test, and it is because of this person that this police doesn't want to come here because he is very difficult.”
At the time of the child’s disappearance, police questioned two males neighbours, aged 21 and 41, but they were soon released.
A former police officer, who cannot be identified and who had been investigating Shaskia’s missing person’s case, said police knew there was a sexual offender living in the same road.
“Missing persons cases were now being handled by the Family Violence and Sexual Offences Unit and we did not have much domain,” he said.
“We brought it to FCS’s attention that there was a man living in the same road who was a sexual offender but I do not know how far that went.”
Next we attempted to speak to the family of Kauthar Bobbs, who lived right next door to Shaskia.
Kauthar disappeared in October 2012 while playing at a park in Cedarburg Road in Tafelsig.
Her family were home but refused to speak to Weekend Argus.
In 2012, the Bobbs family were the police's prime suspects.
They were questioned and interrogated by police due to their alleged drug and gang affiliation.
Rumours surfaced that the child had been human trafficked but this could never be supported with evidence.
Kauthar’s grandmother, Nazely had previously been arrested for drug related charges while her uncle, Yaseen Bobbs, who was a Rude Boy gangster, was murdered in 2014.
While the newspaper was present, carrying out interviews, the roads were a buzz with people and animals.
How did two children just vanish, asked community leader Widaahd Williams who runs a feeding scheme.
“If people were not prepared to speak then, now is the time, this is a very busy community,” said Williams..
Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said there was no designated cold case squad in the area.
“Be advised that there is no designated member/ team that deals with the cold cases. A member will be tasked if any new developments come to light.
“The children are still missing and there are no new developments regarding the said children. The children were circulated as missing/wanted and pamphlets distributed.
“The files are filed pending new information that may be received regarding any of the cases as mentioned,” said Van Wyk.