Action Story: Cleo Diko family frustrated with delay in receiving remains

By Kaylynn Palm

It’s been a painful few weeks for the family of 25-year-old Cleo Diko, whose decomposed body was found under a bed in Mandalay in Cape Town. After paying for private DNA testing to confirm her identity, the state is now delaying the release of her remains to the family.

On 27 January 2023, police discovered the body of Cleo Diko, who had been missing since October 2022. Her decomposed body was found hidden under a bed, covered with cement and tiles and with a rope around the neck.

The police have arrested a man in connection with the murder, and he appeared in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court earlier this month.

Watch Cleo’s family member Philip Cekiso explain their frustration here

Cleo’s mother, Linda, said she is still in shock since hearing the news about her daughter. She told Action Society that her daughter was very outgoing and enjoyed spending time with her friends. “Cleo would always go out or sleep over at family or friends but always returned home,” she said.

Miss Diko said she found out her daughter had been raped around Monwabisi beach in the first week of October last year. She could see that it had affected her. “She opened a case of rape. Around a week later, she told me she was going to church on Sunday but didn’t return after the service. She came home the next day with her friend explaining why she hadn’t returned the previous day. I left, and when I came back, she was gone, and that was the last time we saw her.

“We didn’t think much of it when Cleo left because she normally slept over at her boyfriend’s or friend’s for weeks and would come back and tell us where she was and what she was doing. So we thought that she might have needed some space considering what happened,” she said.

Miss Diko said November had passed, and she had become a bit worried and started asking around. “Cleo doesn’t have a phone, so it is not like I can call her. December came around, and we still hadn’t heard from her, so I kept asking people she knew for information. Finally, someone mentioned something about her baby’s father, and I thought she was with him,” she said.

Miss Diko said it was out of character when her daughter didn’t come home for Christmas. She had a strange feeling after one of Cleo’s friends came to the house one night. “The girl had a few drinks in, I could see, but there was something strange about her behaviour. My heart was beating so fast, I came inside and even told my family something was off,” she said.

The family became more worried and continued to ask around. She said the information they received turned out false. However, in their search, they heard about a man seen with Cleo and tried to follow the leads. During that time, the police received a call from a woman who told them about blood-stained blankets and pillows she had come across while cleaning the separate entrance where her son stayed. The man was arrested in connection with Cleo’s disappearance.

“After Cleo’s body was found, we were told that a DNA test needs to be done, and they said it will take a while; however, if you do it privately, it will be quicker. So, we went for the private option, which cost us R1 500, and we received the results quickly. But, they said another test has to be done to determine what kind of object was used to kill her, which will take weeks if not months,” she said.

Miss Diko and her family enquired when they would receive the remains but were told it won’t happen soon. “We called around and even went to the Western Cape Health Department, who indicated it could take up to a year. We cannot believe it will take this long. We keep asking why and what the reason is,” she said.

Phillip Cekiso, a family member, said the family wants Cleo to have a decent funeral but cannot do so without her remains. “It is frustrating that we are not getting proper feedback; her mother is traumatised, grieving, and getting sick. So we must deal with this process and her daughter’s death. It is not right; we just want an indication of when Cleo’s remains will return to the family,” he said.

Action Society has received a mandate from the family and will look into the matter.

Meanwhile, the case is back in court on 23 March 2023.

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