The harrowing story of a missing mother and her two children have gripped the nation since last week. As we wait for more information on their whereabouts, this is what you need to know about the case.
Heidi Scheepers, 35, and her two children, six-year-old daughter Cuzette and two-year-old son Hugo, were last seen while on their way to Herold’s Bay for a beach walk on Voëlklip beach on Tuesday, October 22 at 6pm. She was driving a charcoal VW Caravelle TDI minibus, and reportedly left without her cellphone.
Scheepers’ husband, Ettienne, had reportedly gone with his family to the beach but turned back on foot to check on his businesses.
The couple are the owners of the Herold’s Bay Café, and also run the Garden Route Property Management group.
Around 8pm Tuesday evening, Ettienne alerted authorities that his family never returned from the walk. Authorities sprung to action and begun searching for the missing family members. Helicopters, divers and rock climbing specialists were put to work scouring the area.
Adverse weather conditions have hampered the search since it began. Due to rough seas, high tides, and bad light, the search party was called off on Wednesday evening. Search teams had to wait until low tides to continue their work.
Authorities were initially concerned that the family had been abducted, but mounting evidence pointed towards a car accident as parts of the minibus had been discovered in a wreckage at the base of a cliff near Voëlklip beach. A search party also found tire tracks near a ledge in Voëlklip, and a broken windscreen, a shoe and other items were found floating in the sea.
Following the discovery of parts of the vehicle, authorities announced that the search mission had become a recovery operation.
“We have strong reason to believe that the wreckage that was found at the bottom of the cliff is that of the missing person’s car. No registration number plate has been found and we can therefore not confirm it at this time,” Southern Cape police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said in a statement.
On Thursday, a search uncovered the VW Caravelle. “A search was done and a car tyre was seen submerged in the water,” says Mojie. “A further inspection revealed that it is a Caravelle.”
Authorities could not confirm any bodies inside the vehicle.
Later on Thursday evening, the body of son Hugo was found floating in a gorge.
“Unfortunately we recovered the body of a two-year-old boy that was found floating in one of the gorges near the place where the vehicle was spotted,” says police spokesperson Malcolm Poje. “Subsequently, the body was recovered and moved and continuing efforts are being made to the other two missing people.”
“The body was recovered and removed by pathology services and taken to the mortuary.”
After the discovery of his son, Father Etienne said that he still has many questions. “At this point, there’s not much clarity about many aspects,” he said.
Hugos’ former school, Little Farm Preschool in George hosted an intimate candle light service for the family on Friday evening.
On Saturday, October 26, the NSRI discovered a body believed to be the missing mother.
“One of the residents near the Bay area spotted the body and alerted us, it was recovered by NSRI around 12.30pm and an autopsy will be done over the next couple of days,” Pojie said. “The body was handed over to forensic pathologists and it was taken to the state mortuary so that an autopsy can be done in the week. Our members remain deployed in the area to see whether we can find the six-year-old girl.”
Search parties have now focused their efforts into finding missing daughter, Cuzette, who has Down’s Syndrome.
“We have been searching the area from Wilderness to Mossel Bay since Wednesday but we unfortunately still haven’t been able to trace the daughter,” Pojie said.