Courtney Pieters was killed by Mortimer Saunders
Cape Town - Following the sentencing of Mortimer Saunders to two life terms for the brutal rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters, we look back from the date of her disappearance and murder to the events leading up to the sentence.

May 4, 2017

Three-year-old Courtney Pieters goes missing from her family home in Salberau, Elsies River. 

May 5 - 12

Her disappearance sparked a search by community members and police. Emotions run high as numerous vigils are held 

May 13

Her body is found dumped in Epping Industria. 

Footage taken from CCTV cameras shows a man whom police identified as a close friend of the family dumping her body on a rubbish heap.

May 14

Police receive an anonymous tip-off and  Mortimer Saunders is arrested for her murder. He was living in the same house as the family and was believed to have been friend of theirs. He is wearing the same clothes as the suspect seen dumping the body on the CCTV footage.

August 21

Courtney Pieters is buried. Hundreds come out to support the family and pay their last respects.

August 25

Saunders makes his first appearance in the Goodwood Magistrate's Court. He has several bruises on his face. His case is postponed and transferred to the High Court.

Convicted killer Mortimer Saunders has been handed two life sentences for the rape and premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters in Western Cape High Court. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

May 14, 2018

Saunders goes on trial for little Courtney's rape and murder. Courtney's tombstone is unveiled on the same day.

May 28

Mortimer Saunders confesses to murdering Courtney Pieters. He admits to feeding her ant poison to make her ill. He then choked her when she started making a noise.

June 8

Forensic analyst Luthando Tiya testifies that he had matched semen from Saunders to samples collected from Courtney's body.

June 12

The official cause of Courtney's death is revealed in court as asphyxia through smothering or strangulation, "and/or" poisoning.  According to pathologist Professor Johan Dempers, the toddler sustained external blunt-force injuries to her face, torso and limbs, and there were signs of pressure to her neck as well as injuries to her genitals. 

September 5

Judge Pearl Mantame closes the case after defence counsel Mornay Calitz refused to let his client testify.

During his trial, Saunders admitted that he poisoned the child because he had "ill feelings" toward her mother Juanita Pieters. According to him he never intended to kill Courtney. He denies raping the little girl.

November 7

The Western Cape High Court finds Saunders guilty of rape and the premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.

While delivering judgment, Judge Babalwa Mantame says that the behaviour of Saunders is the "most brutal, ruthless and vicious this court has ever seen".

December 8 

Saunders writes a letter of apology to Courtney Pieters and her family.

“I deeply regret what I’ve done and I’m truly ashamed for my actions on that day. I will have to live with the fact that I’m responsible for a child’s death,” said the letter written in capital letters.

December 10

Saunders sentenced to  two life terms to run consecutively.