CAPE TOWN, November 7 – The Western Cape High Court on Wednesday found self-confessed child killer Mortimer Saunders guilty of rape and the premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.
Judge Babalwa Mantame said during her judgement that the behaviour of Saunders is the “most brutal, ruthless and vicious this court has ever seen”.
Courtney’s mother, Juanita Pieters, who had left Courtney and her older brother at home as she went to work, was granted immunity from prosecution.
“This court is satisfied that the State proved its case beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Mantame said.
Judge Mantame, in her judgement, said the only conclusion that can be drawn is that self-confessed child killer Mortimer Saunders had penetrated the toddler with his penis.
She said an explanation had been put forward that the multiple injuries to the opening of the toddler’s vagina could possibly have been caused by blunt force trauma.
“If the accused’s explanation could be accepted, then where did the semen in the deep vaginal vault come from? There could be two reasons, this could be penile penetration or contamination,” Mantame said.
However, she said it is highly improbable that the semen came from Saunders’ fingers and that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Saunders penetrated the toddler with his penis.
She added that there is enough proof beyond reasonable doubt that Courtney’s vaginal injuries were caused antemortem
“The accused was the last person to see the deceased alive. The only inference to be drawn is that the semen belonged to the accused,” said Mantame.
Saunders was arrested in May last year after the body of three-year-old Courtney Pieters was found in Epping Industria, nine days after she was reported missing from her Elsies River home.
Saunders denied raping the girl before she died but has admitted to necrophilia. He also claimed that she died after he fed her ant poison because she had been disturbing him at the house he shared with her and her family.
Judge Mantame also made it clear that in regard to premeditated murder, that Saunders knew the effects of the poison as explained in his own version even before poisoning Courtney.
“Time is not the only consideration. Only a few minutes is enough and it is clear that the quantity administered was high. If he wanted to make her sick there was enough time to get medical attention. From his actions, it is clear that he wanted to silence her,” Judge Mantame concluded.
“The State has proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was premeditated murder. She was young and defenceless and she died a slow and painful death.”
Judge Mantame said Saunders might have harboured negative feelings toward the toddler’s mother, Juanita Pieters, but the court rejected his version that this was reason enough to violate and poison Courtney to get back at her mother.
“The crimes committed by the accused were for lewd and selfish reasons. This was a painful, harrowing and agonising experience for the deceased. It shows by her injuries,” Mantame said.