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#CourtneyPieters: Accused assaulted at court

Crime & Courts
The suspect accused of the murder and rape of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters requested to be moved to the medical wing of Goodwood Prison, saying his life was in danger.

Minutes before Mortimer Saunders, 40, appeared in the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, he was reportedly assaulted by fellow awaiting- trial prisoners in the holding cells below the court when they learnt he was an accused child killer and rapist.

Police reportedly had to rush to assist Saunders.

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Murder-accused Mortimer Saunders, 40, at his first court appearance. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane

His request was not granted.

Saunders, in a red T-shirt and jeans, stared ahead of him as the charges were read.

He was charged with the murder and rape of the child.

Courtney went missing on May 4 from her Pluto Street home in Elsies River and was found dead in a field in Bofors Circle, Epping Industria.

Residents and supporters searched extensively for nine days for the girl, and found her lifeless body covered with branches and leaves atop a rubbish heap.

Attorney for the defence Colin Lekay requested that the court date be postponed for further investigation and an appeal process for legal aid to commence.

He stated that his client’s job at a call centre was in jeopardy and added they would not be making a bail application at this stage.

The court heard that Saunders did not qualify for legal aid.

Magistrate Paul Visagie granted the request for an appeal process for legal aid, and the case was postponed to May 24.

Minutes before Saunders appeared, Visagie granted a request for the media to photograph him, but warned those in attendance not to cause disruptions when he came into the dock.

After his brief appearance, Courtney’s mother Juanita Pieters, visibly tired and emotional, and relatives were escorted from the courtroom through a side exit to avoid the media.

Among the large number of sympathisers consoling the family was Zephany Nurse, who had been stolen at two days old and reunited with her biological family only 17 years later.

Also present was family spokesperson Roegshanda Pascoe, who said: “Juanita is not holding up too well. People need to allow this family to mourn in peace.”

Another concerned Mitchells Plain resident, who asked not to be named, and who had joined the search for Courtney, said she had questioned Saunders about his whereabouts and his relationship with Courtney.

In a recording of the conversation, which is in the possession of the Cape Times, she informs Saunders he will be recorded as she questions him.

Saunders can be heard saying he was the last to have seen Courtney in the house in his room, while watching cartoons.

The woman says the police were informed of this recording but nothing was done about it.

Crowds outside the court criticised the police for “protecting criminals who rape our children”, as a stand-off ensued outside the gate from which Saunders was expected to be escorted.

Supporters had rallied together outside court before and after he appeared and hurled profanities at police for not allowing them access to the accused.

“Why are you protecting this grown man? What if that was your child found in a grave?” they shouted.

Saunders’s exit was delayed by almost an hour as a crowd of about 300 would not give way to police vans to take him back to holding cells at Goodwood Prison.

A petition calling for no bail for the suspect was also circulated during the protest.

Molteno Street, between the corners of Voortrekker and Dingle streets, was cordoned off to contain the furious crowd outside court.

The petition will also be circulated at a memorial service at 6.30pm tonight at the Elsies River Civic Centre in Halt Road.

A peace march will proceed from The Range High School at 9.30am on Thursday to the crime scene in Bofors Circle.

Cape Times

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