Child rapist and killer Mortimer Saunders has been denied leave to appeal his conviction and sentence.
After hearing arguments in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, Judge Pearl Mantame, who last year found Saunders guilty of the premeditated murder of Courtney Pieters, said she believed there was no prospect of success on appeal.
Saunders confessed to the murder and to using his fingers to penetrate the 3-year-old after her death.
However, he was convicted of premeditated murder and raping a minor, which both carried a prescribed minimum sentence of life in jail.
Mantame ruled that his sentences run consecutively – not concurrently.
At the start of the trial, Saunders denied that he planned the toddler’s death or that he raped her while she was alive.
His version was that he had given the three-year-old ant poison to make her sick before he choked her, beat her and used a towel to cover her mouth.
He claimed he had done it because of “ill feelings” between him and her mother, Juanita.
Saunders, a father of three, was a tenant in the house where Juanita and her family lived.
His advocate Mornay Calitz argued that the State conceded its case had been circumstantial and submitted that it failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the murder had been premeditated or that Courtney had been raped before her death.
Saunders claimed he bought the poison eight months prior to the murder for an ant problem in the house.
Calitz added that the State should have proven that he had gone out to intentionally buy the poison, as well as a towel with which to smother her.
He also pointed out that expert witness Professor Johan Dempers was non-committal when asked if he could say whether the toddler had been raped before or after her death.
However, prosecutor Esmeralda Cecil argued that Saunders had been convicted after the court considered the evidence in its totality.
She maintained that Saunders’ semen had been found in the deep vaginal vault and on her genitals, which proved the little girl had been raped.
In terms of the sentence, Calitz insisted that by law, a life sentence and any additional sentence must run concurrently because “one only has one life”.
He said Saunders had shown remorse by writing a letter of apology to Pieters’ family, had taken responsibility for his actions, was a first offender and had been in jail for 20 months before he was sentenced.
Calitz also referred to Saunders’ co-operation after his arrest. Saunders made a confession to the police, pointed out locations and pleaded guilty.
But Cecil argued that two life sentences were in line with the prescribed minimum sentence and added that the court had not misdirected itself.
When delivering her judgment, Mantame said she fully considered the arguments, but that they had already been addressed during the trial and judgment proceedings.
The application was dismissed.