Little Orderick Lucas’ body so badly decomposed, cause of death could not be determined – pathologist

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Cornelia Scheepers with the new takkies she bought grandson that he will never get to wear. With her is Orderick’s mother Davedine Lucas. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Cornelia Scheepers with the new takkies she bought grandson that he will never get to wear. With her is Orderick’s mother Davedine Lucas. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
  • Pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony testified that Orderick Lucas’ body was severely decomposed.
  • The only injuries noted were discolouration on the back and side of his neck, suggestive of bruising, and an injury to the front of his head.
  • Anthony concluded that his cause of death was undetermined.

Little Orderick Lucas’ body was so badly decomposed that his cause of death could not be determined, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on his remains testified in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

His body was found in a drain near his grandmother and legal guardian Cornelia Scheepers’ home in Witebol Close two years ago, more than a week after his disappearance.

Dressed in a little tracksuit and white T-shirt, he was still wearing his navy blue and grey sandals and blue socks when he was found by children who had been trying to retrieve their ball from a stormwater drain.

Pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony said his corpse had been badly decomposed and covered in grass debris when she conducted her post-mortem.

The only injuries noted were discolouration on the back and side of his neck, suggestive of bruising, and an injury to the front of his head.

The latter bruising is believed to have been caused by a bump against a light switch, which Lucas’ mother Davedine Lucas had told the court about during her testimony earlier in the trial.

Anthony concluded that his cause of death was undetermined, explaining that the decomposition made it difficult to confirm it with absolute certainty.

“In my professional opinion, the child most likely didn’t end up there by himself,” she said.

“The suspicion of trauma to the neck is highly likely, but the advanced decomposition along with the special investigations [into the bruising] cannot with absolute certainty confirm that there was trauma to the neck. This specific finding has to be carefully evaluated in relation to all other aspects.”

Melvin Volkwyn listened intently to the pathologist’s testimony, in which she testified that foul play could be suspected, with the most likely cause being suggestive of injury to his neck.

Volkwyn has pleaded not guilty to murdering Orderick, the son of his friend with whom he used to smoke drugs.

The 22-month-old boy had been in the legal custody of Scheepers, together with Davedine’s twin sons, after social services intervened after Orderick’s arm was allegedly intentionally broken. Davedine testified that this had happened while he was in Volkwyn’s care.

The three children had been with their mother for the weekend – in contravention of a children’s court order – as Scheepers celebrated her 50th birthday.

Davedine had left the toddler with her friend, Eon Adams, and Volkwyn had taken the child from his home after she was attacked and assaulted after being accused of stealing a cellphone.

She had fallen asleep at her mother's house after sustaining head injuries that Sunday night.

According to Volkwyn, he had given Orderick back to Davedine the next day. Davedine earlier testified that he had told her he had taken the little boy to Scheepers.

He was only discovered to be missing that Thursday, when Orderick’s mother arrived at Scheepers’ home and found that the toddler had never been returned home.

Defence advocate Susan Kuun during cross-examination presented Orderick’s hospital records, which showed he had had septic sores in the month he died.

She asked whether it was possible that he had died of septicaemia.

Anthony, however, said it would have had to be very severe and had this been the case, he would have been admitted to hospital.

Kuun asked if she could rule out that Orderick may have choked on something, like a sweet, saying there was a possibility he may have died with someone trying to conceal his death.

Anthony said it was likely then that the foreign body or object would have been located during the autopsy as the examination of the airway and gastric contents formed part of the post-mortem.

She testified that no foreign object, free fluid or gastric content was found to indicate this.

It was highly likely that she would have found the sweet or foreign object in the post-mortem, Anthony added.

Scheepers also started her testimony on Tuesday, confirming that she had been given custody of her three grandchildren early in January 2019 after social workers asked her to assist, despite her apprehension owing to her work as a machinist which at times sees her arrive home late and requires her to work on Saturdays.

She said it was agreed that should there be problems with her work schedule on a Saturday, she could give the children to their mother, although she testified that she mostly gave Orderick to her, and not his twin brothers.

She told the court that she had been told that Volkwyn had allegedly extracted Orderick’s teeth with pliers and had broken her grandchild’s arm. According to her, a welfare worker had taken her to Volkwyn when she asked to see the person who had done this to him.

“I asked him why he extracted his teeth [without anesthesia] and he said they had already been loose. I asked about his arm, but he couldn’t answer me on that.”

About three weeks later, she said, Volkwyn had arrived at her home with Davedine who told her her friend is, “... very good with hair”.

He styled her hair on three occasions, Scheepers testified.

Prosecutor Mornay Julius asked her why she allowed him into her house when she knew what he had been accused of.

“Davedine said it wasn’t him. She asked me not to be funny with him. I can’t be nasty; I allowed him to do my hair.”

On the night that Davedine left her son with Adams, Scheepers had treated Davedine’s head wounds after she was beaten until she passed out by a mob who accused her of stealing a cellphone.

Scheepers testified she had asked her daughter where Orderick was.

Julius asked her why she had not gone to look for him when Davedine had said he was with Adams.

She said she didn’t know the people or where they lived.

She had sent her husband that Monday to look for her daughter or for Volkwyn, as Davedine had told her she had told Volkwn to get her son from Adams. He had not been able to locate either one of them.

The Tuesday, she said, she had been in the bath when Orderick’s dad Doukoucia Kounkou Dziendelet had brought his son’s bag. She had planned to go around to their home the evening to see where he was, Scheepers said, but train delays saw her only arrive home at 19:45.

She had sent her husband to find them; again, he couldn’t.

She had only worked half day the Wednesday as she had asked her manager if she could leave early as Orderick was not yet back with her.

Davedine had not been at her home when she arrived, Scheepers said, and she had left a message with her neighbour saying that she was, “... looking for the child.

“The Thursday, I told myself I am not going to work. I am going to look where they are with the child,” she said.

Davedine had arrived, saying she wanted to see how her son was.

“I looked at her and asked her, ‘Where is your child?’ She asked if Melvin hadn’t brought him. I started screaming at her… .”

Davedine had left with her oldest daughter who had been visiting her grandmother.

The girl, then 12, had returned home alone, saying her mother was crying and arguing with a man, who she presumed to be Volkwyn.

They had gone to the Kleinvlei police station, where Scheepers said she asked Volkwyn where her grandson was.

“He said to me that he had given the child to Davedine that Monday morning at 07:00. Davedine said to him he never gave the child to her.

“I started to cry because Mel looked uncertain. I said to him that the child can’t just disappear, where is the child? He couldn’t give me an answer.”

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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