Justice for Courtney Pieters postponed

Cape Town residents gathered at the high court to condemn the murder of Courtney Pieters and support her family.
Cape Town residents gathered at the high court to condemn the murder of Courtney Pieters and support her family.
Image: Nora Shelly

The trial for Mortimer Saunders‚ who is accused of raping and murdering three-year-old Courtney Pieters‚ was postponed on Monday. This will afford him time to appoint an expert pathologist to challenge the state's post-mortem findings.

In dispute is the post-mortem report which the defence said contributed to the rape charges against Saunders.

Lawyer Mornay Calitz said in the Cape Town High Court that because Saunders was relying on legal aid to fight his case the appointment of an expert witness had to be cleared by treasury - a process which may take two weeks to finalise. Legal aid is a government program which gives legal representation to people who cannot afford to pay for it.

Judge Pearl Mantame postponed the matter to May 28.

Pieters was murdered in Elsiesrivier in May last year. Saunders and Pieters's father‚ Aaron Fourie‚ were best friends at the time of her murder and Saunders was a tenant living in the same house where the murder and rape allegedly took place.

Family member Andrea Pieters said the postponement is frustrating. "I want to see justice served because Courtney was gone too soon. It's a wound that is still raw and it will never heal. We want answers and even if he gets punishment‚ no matter how many years it is‚ it will never compare with what she went through‚" she said stoically.

"We just want justice for her so we can go on with our lives even though it might not be possible. But hopefully in time things can be the way they were."

Former president Jacob Zuma visited the family home last year at the height of gang violence in the area which saw 14 people shot in a single gang related incident not far from where Pieters lived. TimesLIVE quoted him as saying that he was shocked by the incident.

“That a man who stays here can rape the child‚ kill the child in the bedroom … and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag … It shows something has gone wrong with society‚” Zuma said.

He also addressed the rate of violence against children which saw nearly 70 children being murdered in the Western Cape in 2017.

“But police must double their efforts to help society. This is one of the saddest incidents I have come across. For a man who stays in the same house to commit a murder‚ stay awake and face the family [and] pretend he knows nothing…” said Zuma.

Family and community members who filled the public gallery were audible in their discontent that the case had been postponed on Monday.

They could be heard heckling Saunders before Mantame entered the the court. "We don't feel it's right that it got postponed. It's been a year now‚" said Michelle Raubenheimar. The traumatic effect on the wider community was evident. Many residents who attended the proceedings expressed their anxiety while mothers said they shared the victim's mother Juanita's stress and pain.

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