Family of missing man who lived on streets waiting to bury him due to delay in DNA testing

A year ago, Lesley Nieuwenhuyzen’s remains were found at Salt River mortuary after he had died five months before in Sea Point. He was missing for 28 years and found living on the streets. Spplied image

A year ago, Lesley Nieuwenhuyzen’s remains were found at Salt River mortuary after he had died five months before in Sea Point. He was missing for 28 years and found living on the streets. Spplied image

Published May 25, 2024


Cape Town - The family family of a 70-year-old man who went missing for 28 years and was found living on the streets have been waiting for more than a year to bury him due to the delay in DNA testing.

A year ago, Lesley Nieuwenhuyzen’s remains were found at Salt River mortuary after he had died five months earlier in Sea Point.

Nieuwenhuyzen’s ex-wife, Irene Nieuwenhuyzen, had been searching for him for a year until he was found roaming the streets of Sea Point and Cape Town CBD, thanks to missing person’s organisation Track n Trace.

At the time, Nieuwenhuyzen refused to reconcile with relatives and requested to live at a home in Paarl, but before this could happen, his body was found at the mortuary.

Now, a year later, Irene told Weekend Argus she was still waiting on DNA testing results, which she was told would take a few months.

Irene and Nieuwenhuyzen were married for 17 years and lived in Clarke Estate. They had four children together before their marriage ended.

“I was told in December 2023 that I have to wait six months for the DNA test results, but I have not heard a word from them since,” Irene said.

Nieuwenhuyzen disappeared over 28 years ago, until a relative recognised him in Cape Town CBD a few years ago, and that is where the search began.

“My niece, who works in Cape Town, recognised him and we made contact with social workers, and later we asked for Track n Trace’s help,” she added.

“He was on the streets for almost 29 years. I started looking for him in 2022. I met with social workers and brought his sister with us so we could speak.

“He didn’t grow up with his mother and was raised by another family. He only met his siblings after we got divorced.

“We were taken to a location where he would bathe and eat, and a meeting was arranged for us to see him.

“But when he found out we were looking for him, he said he wanted nothing to do with us.

“We tried again but to no avail, and then he took his stuff and left the place

where he had been living,” she said.

“He was missing for some time again, and Chaz Thomas and their team from Track n Trace found him in Cape Town in December 2022.

Track n Trace Team, Chaz Thomas and Washiela Dirks during a recent search. Facebook pic

“We were busy with a feeding programme with the homeless when we found him and recognised him, as we had been approached by his family to look for him,” Irene added.

“He did not want to be with his family, he asked to be at a shelter in Paarl.

“While the arrangements for him to be placed at the shelter were being done, that was the time his body was found.”

She said that their search later led them to Salt River mortuary, where they learnt Nieuwenhuyzen had died in Sea Point and was deemed an unidentified body.

Thomas said bodies were usually not kept for longer than three months if not identified correctly and would be given a pauper burial.

Irene said they went to the police station and the mortuary in June 2023.

“After three visit I was shown a file, and by then he had already passed on five months before.

“They said his body is in a bad state of decomposition and it was too late to see it as we would not be able to recognise him.”

Irene said while she was waiting for the DNA results and answers about his burial, she learnt she was suffering from cancer. She is now receiving treatment and is not able to continue her search with police.

“After I found his body at the mortuary, I was told to go to Sea Point police, where I was told to get a new birth certificate and other documents such as our marriage certificate, and I never heard from the police again or was even told if they buried him.

“I became ill with cancer in December 2023 and I told myself if they buried him, it would be better than for him to lay for so long, but I have no closure and that was over Christmas.

“Earlier this year, I was again at the mortuary, and the staff asked why didn’t the police contact us, because they had the DNA test.

“They tried to call the detective who was never available and we never heard anything again.”

Police spokesperson, Captain FC van Wyk said numerous attempts were made to contact the man’s family.

“Kindly be advised that the family of the deceased can contact the investigating officer or the branch commander at Sea Point police station regarding their concerns.

“The investigating officer obtained a sworn statement from Irene Elizabeth Joan Niewenhuysen that she was married to the deceased for 16 years, and that there is no other family member that she is aware of on the side of the deceased, except her own son.

“She was contacted on numerous occasions on her cellular number (which she provided ), but she never answers the calls.”

Megan Davids, of the Western Cape Health Department ,said they would be looking into the matter.

Weekend Argus