When Mortimer Saunders arrived in court on Thursday, he was greeted by an angry group of women in the gallery, which included Juanita Pieters, mother of the slain Courtney. Picture: Noor Slamdien / African News Agency

Rape and murder accused Mortimer Saunders allegedly told the investigating officer, before making a formal confession, that he performed a sexual act on 3-year-old Courtney Pieters' corpse at the dumping site.

Along with the public, Saunders had led police on a wild goose chase when they shared false information, State witness and investigating officer Sean Taylor said.

On Thursday, the State called Taylor as their final witness at the Western Cape High Court.

Taylor said they followed up all leads, including “two ransom demands which ended up being bogus stories”.

According to Taylor, Saunders and other neighbours gave information to police about a man who lived around the corner from the Pluto Street home where Courtney had gone missing from, but this suspect was eventually "eliminated from the investigation".

Taylor said on the day Courtney’s body was found, Saunders, who had been a part of the nine-day search, was not at the scene when her body was found in Bofors Circle.

Taylor said he viewed CCTV footage at Elsies River police station and a neighbour of the Pieters family was the first one to identify Saunders on the footage, “as she recognised his walk”. Courtney's mother Juanita was given the opportunity to view the footage, but denied knowing the suspect initially.

"When the sniffer dog was at the Pluto Street home (the next day), Juanita came to me and said she lied and did in fact know the person on the footage. I asked her why she lied, and she said she could not believe it was him."

Taylor, stationed at the Bishop Lavis police station as commander in the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit, testified that after Saunders' arrest, he wanted to “get his head clear of what he did” and said he had “killed Courtney, dumped her body and after dumping her penetrated her vagina with his fingers”.

“At this point, I stopped the interview as I wanted a formal confession from the accused. Saunders said he did not want any legal representation present during his confession and he agreed to point out the scene where he had dumped Courtney,” Taylor said.

The trial will continue on Monday when the defence will call their privately appointed forensic pathologist to the witness stand.