Thoughts of missing daughter haunts father to his deathbed
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
A blue, metal plate with the name Anastasia written on it in yellow letters greets visitors at the door where a missing Mitchell’s Plain girl used to live.
Anastasia Lucas’s deceased father Malcolm Lucas had put the plate up so that his daughter could find her house easily, said the girl’s mother Joanie Lucas.
Their home in Westridge is near the park where Anastasia went missing when she was seven years old in November 1997. She was playing with her younger sister and other children from the neighbourhood.
Recalling that day, Joanie Lucas said one of the boys playing in the park had seen Anastasia “get into a white Toyota”.
“After she went missing, my husband put her name on the house. He said if someone heard about her and found her then they would know where to bring her to,” said Lucas.
Lucas said her husband died last year and lived in torment until then. Anastasia was the couple’s second of three daughters.
“It affected him a lot when she went missing. He used to sleep on the cement floor in the backyard. He said he didn’t know if his child was sleeping on a bed,” she said.
“He didn’t eat because he didn’t know if the people who took Anastasia was giving her food. He just smoked. And that killed him. He died of cancer.”
Lucas said her husband “would also sleep in the park where Anastasia went missing”.
“He would stay there until 3am. He only told me that on his deathbed. We lived apart even though we were in the same house. The day that I lost my daughter, I also lost my husband.”
Lucas said her husband wrote his daughter’s name on everything: “walls, clothes, the bed, everywhere”.
“The cherry on the cake was when he hung her nighty (night dress) on the ceiling fan above our bed. He was obsessed with finding her and I think he became mentally disturbed. It didn’t scare me. It was just weird,” said Lucas.
Her husband, who worked as a driver for various companies, was at home the day his daughter went missing. Lucas works as a hospital nurse and was on her way to work that afternoon.
Their two younger daughters were playing at the park and their eldest daughter was visiting her grandmother.
Lucas said her husband “probably felt guilty” that he was at home when Anastasia went missing.
“He was waiting for her until the end (of his life). He felt that he needed to take care of her and he didn’t. That ate at him,” she said.
Her husband was not the only one who carried guilt about Anastasia. Her eldest daughter Jenilee Philander, 29, a divorced mother of two primary school sons, feels the same.
Philander lives in the same house near the park where Anastasia went missing.
“I feel guilty. My younger sisters never went to the shop alone when I was here. I wasn’t here to go with them to the park. Maybe it would not have happened,” she said.
“I work in a hospital so you hear about a lot of bad things. You hope she was taken in by a family that takes good care of her. You don’t want her to be tortured.
“But you accept we live in a cruel world and something bad could have happened.”
Philander said the incident made her more “cautious” about allowing her sons to play at the park.
“It’s best for me if my sons don’t go out of the house. But they are boys and they love skateboarding. I let them play in the park but I check up on them,” she said.
Lucas said she had not stopped hoping that some day her daughter would return “alive”.
“The day after she went missing it was storming. I felt everyone was crying with us, even as far up as in Heaven and the angels. I’m hoping she would come home. She won’t miss the house. It has her name on it,” said Lucas.
She added: “Malcolm made us promise not to sell this house until she comes home. I don’t know what to believe, if she is dead or alive, because we didn’t find her.”
Western Cape police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk said the “investigation into the disappearance of Anastasia Lucas is still ongoing”.
“No new information regarding her whereabouts has come to light. Anyone with information regarding her whereabouts is kindly requested to contact the police,” he said.