The Western Cape High Court has found Mortimer Saunders guilty of the rape and premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.
This is a breaking story. More to follow.
— Christina Pitt (@ChristinaPitt94) November 7, 2018
Judgment was initially postponed on October 17, as Judge Pearl Mantame had been posted to the Motion court on the date of the then expected judgment.
Loved ones and community members expressed their anger at the delay outside court, after they had made special arrangements to be in court en masse.
Courtney’s decomposing body was discovered in Epping Industria in May, nine days after her disappearance from her Elsies River home.
In a plea explanation, Saunders confessed to murder and to using his fingers to penetrate her after her death.
He denied that he planned the toddler’s death or that he raped her while she was alive.
Pleaded guilty to ‘plain murder’
His version was that he had given the girl 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 was a tenant in the house where Juanita lived.
The State submitted during closing arguments that the court should convict him on both charges and sentence him to two life terms for rape and premeditated murder.
However, defence advocate Mornay Calitz said the State had not proved that the murder was premeditated, saying that his client pleaded guilty to “plain murder”, which had not been planned.
He conceded at the time that his client should have foreseen that Courtney could die as a result of the poison.
Nonetheless, Calitz maintained it had been “spur of the moment conduct” and that what had transpired that day did not paint a picture of a “thought-out process”.