Rape and murder accused Mortimer Saunders. Picture: Kim Kay/Daily Voice

Cape Town – Sentencing and judgment in the case against rape and murder accused Mortimer Saunders began on Tuesday, with Judge Babalwa Mantame setting the tone about how the State had gone about arguing its case.

Saunders is accused of raping and murdering 3-year-old Courtney Pieters after she went missing from her Pluto Street home in Salberau on May 4 last year.

Judge Mantame, while reading summarised testimonies of the 10 witnesses called by the State, said one of the expert witnesses, forensic pathologist Johan Dempers, had been “careful and meticulous in his evidence”.

Saunders listened impassively while Mantame read the plea admission submitted to the court.

In the plea, Saunders admitted to murdering Courtney, who had been left in the care of her brother.

Saunders, who rented a room in the Pieters family home for about two years, also admitted to feeding Courtney ant poison after mixing the powder solution with water, saying he did this because he was irritated with the child waking him for a second time when he wanted to watch TV in his room.

He said he had also been motivated by “compounded ill feelings” between himself and Courtney’s mother, Juanita. He said he did not intend to kill Courtney but just wanted to make her ill.

He hit her and placed a towel over her mouth, then choked her when family members started looking for her.

Courtney’s decomposing body was found on a rubbish heap in Bofors Circle, Epping Industria, after an extensive nine-day search.

Saunders plead guilty to an alternative charge of rape, saying he had performed a sexual act on the toddler’s corpse when he penetrated her with three fingers, and thereafter took out his genital, rubbing them against Courtney’s genitals, “but not penetrating her”.

He also plead guilty to murder but submitted it was not premeditated. The State rejected this submission.

Yesterday, the court was packed with supporters of Courtney’s family.

Judgment and sentencing are to continue today and tomorrow.

Cape Times