Cape Town - Presenting shocking evidence in the Western Cape High Court on Monday, a Durban-based forensic pathologist claimed there was no evidence to suggest three-year-old Courtney Pieters was raped while alive.
Showing photographs which detail every mark on her tiny body, including her vagina and the inside of her skull, Dr Segaran Naidoo says the forensic evidence, “to the best of his knowledge”, shows no bruising, which would have had a “pattern”.
“There is no pattern to suggest there was bruising, except at the entrance of the vagina, at the edge,” he told the court.
“I am not convinced the lacerations in the images are lacerations at all.
“The vagina is not flat. It has crevices and ridges so one would expect lines.
“Commonly, genital injury is seen at the point of the most friction. So on a clock it would be at 3-9. This area will have the greatest injury.
“In my opinion, there is no pattern to suggest bruising. That the accused, family boarder Mortimer Saunders, is an adult male and the child a three-year-old, leaves room for a different kind of circumference injury,” Naidoo said.
State pathologist Professor Johan Dempers previously testified he found ‘ghosting’ (red blood cells), indicating bleeding, which proves Courtney had been alive when she was raped by Saunders, whose semen was found inside the child’s vaginal vault.
Asked by defense lawyer Mornay Calitz if he ruled out rape, Naidoo said: “In my opinion, without a doubt, the victim was not raped antemortem (while alive), and if there was indeed rape, it was perimortem (4-6 minutes after your heart stops beating when you can still be revived) or post-mortem.”
Saunders steadily watched the images of Courtney’s autopsy and showed no reaction.
Dempers last week said it was “impossible” for any forensic pathologist to rule out any kind of evidence unless he was present at the autopsy.
Judge Pearl Mantame asked Naidoo if simply looking at images of Courtney’s autopsy to form an opinion put him at a disadvantage, to which he answered: “It is a disadvantage for me and the court as well.
“We go according to the quality of the post-mortem and even for the trained eye, finding contusions and bruising is hard to do.”
Calitz then asked if semen could have gotten into Courtney’s vagina by Saunders inserting his three fingers into her, which he had admitted to having done.
“Pre-ejaculation or semen can be deposited passively. If the accused was doing pre-play, it would be pre-ejaculation and if it was semen, it could have been postplay,” Naidoo said.
Cross examination of the witness takes place today.
Courtney disappeared from her Elsies River home in May last year.
Her body was found nine days later in a shallow grave in Epping Industria.
Saunders, who had been boarding with the family for two years, admitted that he killed the child because he had “issues” with her mother, Juanita Pieters, but denied raping her.
Neither the little girl’s parents were at court on Monday.