DISTRAUGHT: Courtney's mom, Juanita PIeters is comforted during a prayer meeting held at her home on Sunday. CREDIT: Phando Jikelo/ANA Pictures
DISTRAUGHT: Courtney's mom, Juanita PIeters is comforted during a prayer meeting held at her home on Sunday. CREDIT: Phando Jikelo/ANA Pictures
Courtney Pieters, 3
Courtney Pieters, 3
Courtney Pieters
Courtney Pieters

Cape Town – The man arrested for the murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters is believed to be a childhood friend of her father's who had rented a room in their Elsies River, Cape Town, home.

The 40-year-old man was arrested on Sunday night.

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said investigators had worked around the clock to catch the perpetrator.

"The 40-year-old suspect was arrested at Saturn Close, Salberau, Elsies River and once he has been charged he is expected to appear in Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on a charge of murder."

Little Courtney's body was found in Epping on Saturday.

She had been missing since May 4.

Her alleged killer is believed to have been close to the family, with the children calling him "uncle". He had been on the run since the wreath-laying ceremony on Sunday.

"We were shocked and very disappointed. He should have been her protector as he knew her, they had a good relationship," said Courtney's aunt, Magdelene Petersen.

Petersen described the suspect as a relaxed person.

"He knew how to address people and his manners attracted people to him. He respected Courtney’s family. A very decent man who has been friends with Courtney’s father since childhood and worked at a call centre.

"For Aaron, Courtney’s father this hasn’t sunk in. A lot of people were asking us if we trust him (the suspect) and if he might not have been involved, we defended him cause we thought we knew him. My niece loved him as he would buy her chips and sweets, he would call her to the room to watch cartoons as he had DSTV, that was my son’s room but he moved out for him. Courtney was an introvert, she wouldn’t take anything from strangers."

When the Cape Argus visited the family home on Monday, the suspect's parents had come to pay their respects and apologise to Courtney's family.

The suspect's father is believed to be a priest.

Petersen said the family was pleased that the suspect's family had come to share their pain and loss.

Coordinator of the Mitchell's Plain Crisis Forum, Joanie Fredericks and chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, Roegshanda Pascoe have appealed to the public not to spread rumours about how Courtney's body may have been found and not to speculate on her cause of death as this would affect the investigation.