A man, Mortimer Saunders has been found guilty of the brutal rape and premeditated murder of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters in Cape Town.
Judge Pearl Mantame made the finding at about noon on Wednesday after delivering a lengthy judgement in the Cape Town high court.
A 40-year-old man arrested in connection with the murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters in Elsies River, Cape Town, South Africa, rented a space in her family home.
It was that the little girl was found in a shallow grave, 10 days after she went missing. Pieters was declared missing on Thursday, May 4th, 2017 and was last seen playing in a street near her home.
According to local media, he knew them well? infact he was tasked with watching Pieters and her six-year-old sibling the day she went missing from their home in Elsies River on the Cape Flats.
When Pieters?s mother? Juanita? stepped out that day she asked the man? who had been at home sleeping after working a night shift? to ?watch over? the children. The man had been living with them for two years.
They trusted him? even after Pieters went missing? confiding in him and using him as a source of support in their time of need.
But his involvement even went beyond that. The suspect became quickly involved with the investigation? embedding himself with the Elsies River Community Police Forum (CPF) search.
And when 200 members of the public went looking for the little girl on Saturday? it was he? along with other volunteers? who first stumbled across the body.
?The man now arrested for Courtney?s murder? was actively involved in the search every step of the way. He even was on the scene when her body was found. It?s been extremely traumatic for all of us? knowing he was so close to the investigation?? said Imraahn Mukaddam? CPF chief for Elsies River.
The suspect?s ability to quickly insert himself into the investigation troubled Mukaddam? knowing that the potential killer received the same information family members did.
?He was very supportive of the family? giving him a position where he was able to manipulate them and the investigation. It?s very difficult because you never want to immediately scrutinise direct family and friends?? Mukaddam said.
Despite the troubling new information? Mukaddam commended local neighbourhood watches and volunteers who had participated in the search.
?Any time a crisis like this occurs? especially regarding a child? a coordinated approach is sparked immediately. It?s about working together to get that collective response? no matter where these incidents happen in the Western Cape?? Mukaddam said.
Saunders confessed to killing Courtney‚ who lived in Elsies River‚ with ant poison and claimed that he had then committed necrophilia.
She was murdered in May 2017 and her body was only found days later after a massive search.
Mantame rejected the self-confessed murder’s version that he did not rape the child but only inserted his fingers into her after she had died.
“The accused is not honest‚” said Mantame. “The fact that he said he inserted his fingers … is because he did not want to be convicted for rape”
A calm Saunders expressed no emotion as he was convicted. In his plea explanation in May‚ Saunders said:
“I unlawfully and intentionally committed a sexual act with a corpse.”
Courtney was murdered in her home in Elsies River in May last year. Saunders was a tenant there at the time and he was also friends with Courtney’s father‚ Aaron Fourie. The little girl was in the care of her six-year-old brother.
The matter has been postponed to December 4 for sentencing procedures.
It was a heartbreaking scene in Pluto Street last year, where dozens of residents had gathered outside the child’s home to show support. Inside, the girl’s siblings sobbed uncontrollably while her parents were in an upstairs bedroom in a state of shock.
Forensic tests are needed to confirm that it is the missing girl’s body, but her family members have identified her clothes.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk says an investigation is ongoing and no arrest have been made. He urged people with information about the case to contact their nearest police station.
Meanwhile, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the site where little Courtney’s body was found.