Mortimer Saunders is on trial for the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters. FILE PHOTO: ANA

Cape Town - State witness chief forensic analyst Jacobus van Zyl who analysed samples from the body of three-year-old Courtney Pieters told the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday that she was given a large dose of poison.

Murder accused Mortimer Saunders had previously admitted that he had given the toddler ant poison before later strangling her.

According to Van Zyl, he received a piece of the child's stomach, kidney, liver, bowel, as well as blood samples, and upon receiving these he was specifically requested to look for traces of ant poison.

"In my experience, I was surprised to find it in her blood because most pesticides metabolize very fast and exit in urine or bowels. This was found in the blood because when you die your metabolism stops. However, because of the high dose she died soon, but there was also time for the metabolism to take place as it was found in her bowel also. Death took place quickly," Van Zyl said.

Courtney was last seen alive on May 4, 2017, near her family home in Elsies River. Her body was found in a shallow grave in Epping Industria on May 13 and Saunders was arrested the following day. Saunders, who was a tenant at the family's home, has admitted to strangling the child after giving her ant poison. He has denied raping her but said he used his fingers to penetrate her after the murder. 

Van Zyl said he found 0.8 mg per litre of pesticide in her blood and 1.75 ml in her bowel and that because the body at the time of poisoning received so many messages at once, it automatically shut down, and the first thing to normally go is the breathing.

"In children, to be poisoned is more severe and cannot recover like adults whose enzymes will recover if a small dose is administered. However, a child would need immediate medical treatment," said Van Zyl. 

The case is expected back in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

African News Agency/ANA