MORTIMER Saunders, on trial for rape and murder of Courtney Pieters, will hear his fate at Western Cape High Court. Picture: Zodidi Dano/Cape Argus
Cape Town - Judgment in the Elsies River toddler murder trial continues today after the judge began reading her 82-page judgment on Tuesday.

Western Cape High Court Judge Pearl Mantame has set aside three days.

Courtney Pieters was raped and murdered on May 4 last year. Her body was found nine days later dumped in a plastic bag at Epping Industria.

Mortimer Saunders, the man on trial, confessed to poisoning and smothering Courtney. He denied raping the girl, but said he only inserted his three fingers in her vagina.

Semen was found in the crotch of the jeans worn by Courtney.

Saunders had been renting a room in Courtney’s parent’s home at the time of the incident.

In court, he was clean shaven, wearing a green T-shirt with a brown leather and suede jacket.

Right behind him sat Elsies River residents and the girl’s family who donned blue T-shirts adorned with photos of the girl.

Judge Mantame spent the day meticulously going through witness and expert testimonies. She went through Courtney’s mother Juanita Pieters testimony.

The court recognised that Courtney was left by her mother, who assumed that other adults in the home would look after her.

The judge spent some time going over senior forensic pathologist at the Tygerberg Hospital testimony of Professor Johan Dempers.

Dempers supervised the post-mortem examination which was done by intern pathologist Dr Aloycia Ogle. Ogle had been working in pathology for just five months.

During the trial, Dempers said an autopsy examination found that Courtney had sustained a tear in her vagina and the opening had stretched significantly. He said the vaginal hole of a child her age was very small, could be the size of a little finger (pinkie).

“There were multiple lacerations caused by an object. It was stretched too far, over extended. Could have been caused by penis penetration - an adult penis penetration could have been the cause,” he said.

Dempers said it was difficult to determine the cause of death.

He said they were left with three possibilities: poisoning, manual strangulation (asphyxia) and/or smothering. He was unable to determine whether Courtney was raped prior or after her death.

Judgment continues.


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