Killers mislead missing kids search parties to avoid arrest
When a child disappears and the search parties head out, the perpetrator is sometimes among them.
Two recent cases in the Western Cape, involving three-year-old Courtney Pieters and Rene-Tracy Roman, 13, have featured killers leading search parties away from the places where they had dumped the bodies.
Dessie Rechner, head and founder of the Pink Ladies Organisation for Missing Children, said Courtney's killer, Mortimer Saunders, "manipulated" those on the search.
In May 2017, Courtney was left at her home in Elsies River with her older brother and Saunders, a family friend and tenant. When her parents returned, she had vanished.
Rechner said: "At one point, I told everyone in the search party to take pictures of everybody else. These people, the perpetrators, are always walking in the crowd, and in this case he was so manipulative that he was guiding people away from what he had done, from where he had put Courtney."
Saunders later confessed in court how he poisoned Courtney to "spite her mother" after an altercation, and was annoyed that the child had wanted to watch TV in his room.
He sexually assaulted her after she died, and "that very night, he took her body in a bag and dumped her by the old railway line", said Rechner.
It emerged in court that the photo on Courtney's "missing child" poster was from Saunders' phone.
Two months earlier, Rene-Tracy's killer joined search parties in Lavender Hill. Lucinda Evans, of women's organisation Philisa Abafazi Bethu, said Andrew Plaatjies was in the crowd of about 100 people who gathered at Rene-Tracy's home. "We divided into three groups. Andrew was in the one group, and he walked them away from her body."
On the fourth day of the search, the police went through every house in the vicinity. But Plaatjies stood at his door and said: "If you don't have a search warrant, you can't search."
Rene-Tracy's body was found in Plaatjies' shed after she disappeared, but by then he had fled. Police traced him and he is serving a 50-year sentence for the girl's murder...