Judgment begins in case of murdered three-year-old Courtney Pieters

06 November 2018 - 11:39 By philani nombembe
Mortimer Saunders, the man who confessed to killing three-year-old Courtney Pieters. File photo
Mortimer Saunders, the man who confessed to killing three-year-old Courtney Pieters. File photo
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

Self-confessed child killer Mortimer Saunders complained on Tuesday that he could barely hear the judgment that will seal his fate in the Courtney Pieters murder trial in Cape Town.

By lunchtime‚ Judge Pearl Mantame was halfway through her lengthy judgment.

Saunders confessed to killing Courtney in Elsies River with ant poison and committing necrophilia. She was murdered in Elsies River in May 2017.

The gallery was packed with angry community members. Mantame started her judgment by summarising the witnesses and experts’ testimonies.

Saunders complained through his counsel that Mantame read softly and he could barely hear. The hearing was to be moved to a smaller courtroom with better acoustics.

Judge Mantame said forensic pathologist Professor Johan Demper’s evidence showed that semen had been found in the child’s private parts. However‚ Dempers‚ a senior forensic pathologist at Tygerberg Hospital‚ had said that he was not certain whether the semen was deposited while the child was alive or after her death.

The state is disputing the necrophilia claim and said he raped the child while she was still alive. Dempers said there were lacerations to the child’s private parts. “The findings were that the lacerations were caused by the [insertion] of an object‚” said Mantame. “It was stated that the laceration could have been caused by penal penetration.”

TimesLIVE had reported earlier, that in his plea explanation in May‚ Saunders had said: “I unlawfully and intentionally committed a sexual act with a corpse.”

When Courtney was murdered‚ Saunders was a tenant in her home and was also friends with Courtney’s father‚ Aaron Fourie. The little girl was in the care of her six-year-old brother.

According to Saunders‚ she irritated him by waking him up because she wanted to watch television in his room.

“Irritated for having been woken a second time‚ and compounded by ill feelings between myself and her mother‚ I decided to give her ant poison‚” Saunders said.

He had bought the poison‚ which was in powder form‚ months earlier to repel ants in his room. He mixed it with water. “Initially she did not want to drink it‚ but on telling her to do so she did‚” he said.

The incident received wide media coverage at the time. Then-president Jacob Zuma visited the family and said he was appalled at Saunders’ act.

“That a man who stays here can rape the child‚ kill the child in the bedroom… and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag… it shows something has gone wrong with society‚” Zuma said at the time.

Courtney’s body was found nine days after her disappearance‚ with her killer leading the search party away from where she lay.

“An investigation is a puzzle. You listen to everybody‚” says Dessie Rechner‚ head and founder of the Pink Ladies Organisation for Missing Children.

The judgment continues.