South Africa

Mortuary denies foster parents access to son's remains due to DNA

Mortuary denies foster parents access to son's remains due to DNA

Cape Town - A Manenberg couple has been battling to bury their foster son for nearly two months after Salt River Mortuary refused to release his body.

Mom Berenice Kou, 51, says despite raising Romeo Oscar Durmanic, 21, since he was a newborn, she’s been locked in a dispute with the mortuary, which resulted in Romeo’s funeral being cancelled on Thursday.

The heartbroken woman and her partner, Lesley August, 49, say despite producing all the documentation required and identifying the young man’s body, they were refused access to his remains due to DNA testing.

“When he was just two days old, his mother came to me for a place to stay because she was homeless. I gave her a room and told she can stay as long as she needs,” says Berenice.

“Then on the second day, she went somewhere and never came back. I went to Child Welfare and told them what happened.

“I was already attached to him, so I told them I am willing to raise him like my own.

“When he was five, they placed him legally in my care and Lesley and I raised him.”

Three years ago Romeo went to live with his girlfriend, Eleanor Stevens, 34, in Heinz Park after she became pregnant and gave birth to their son, Divaughn.

Berenice says on 6 October they were told the couple was killed in a hit-and-run accident on the R300 and their bodies were at Salt River Mortuary.

“I went there and they showed me his face on the computer. I told them it’s him, but they said because we don’t have the same surname, I cannot get his body.

“I had to go back to Child Welfare and get his birth certificate and all the documents from more than 20 years ago.”

On Tuesday, the couple took the papers to the mortuary, but were told that DNA tests needed to be done.

“We mos can’t give them DNA because it won’t match.”

She says officials will use Divaughn’s DNA, but it will take weeks if not months and in the meantime she can’t bury him.

Forensic Pathology Services spokesperson, Deanna Bessick, said: “This case was discussed with the detective and the process of identification explained to the family.

“Identification is required to register the death and bury the deceased.”

Bessick could not explain why the foster mother was not considered the “authorised person” as the body cannot be released to his two-year-old child [only blood relative], but says DNA tests will be conducted by SAPS anyway.

Daily Voice