Cape Town - Mortimer Saunders’ lawyer on Thursday shocked the court by denying that his client confessed to murdering three-year-old Courtney Pieters.
The investigating officer in the case testified on Thursday in the Western Cape High Court that shortly after his arrest, Saunders confessed to him that he poisoned the little girl, choked her when she started making a noise to shut her up, and then took her to Bofors Circle in Epping Industria, where he sexually assaulted her with his fingers.
He said from the moment of his arrest on Sunday, 14 March 2017, Saunders had given his full cooperation to police.
However, Saunders later changed his story, claiming he had sexually assaulted the little girl before leaving her parents’ Elsies River home to dump her body.
Captain Shaun Taylor, who is the Unit commander for the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) of Bishop Lavis police station, said Saunders was one of the first people interviewed after Courtney’s disappearance.
“We interviewed all the people who lived on the property of 23 Pluto Street, Salberau Estate, on 5 May 2017, the day after Courtney went missing,” said Taylor.
“Of all the people in the house, he (alone) had interacted with Courtney. Her parents had left early and the accused said Courtney had come into his room to watch DStv.
“He then said she had left. Nobody else had seen her after her parents had left that morning, only the accused had seen her alive.”
He said Saunders had helped search for Courtney in the following nine days and told police a neighbour in the next street, named as Richard Maxim, might be “someone of interest”.
“The accused put us on him and Maxim had been our number one suspect since she disappeared,” said the cop.
“Saunders was the only person who had a photograph of the victim for the posters we were putting out.”
After Courtney’s body was found, and the forensic officer indicated she’d been sexually assaulted, they asked all the men in the house to provide a DNA sample.
“All the men who live in the house went down to the police station and provided a sample. Everyone except for Saunders,” testified Taylor.
“I had the victim’s mother, Juanita, call him in my presence to tell him, and he just said he was on his way, but he never came.”
After conferring with his client, defence attorney Mornay Calitz asked Taylor if he had notarised the alleged confession, and Taylor said no.
Calitz then claimed his client never confessed and denied Saunders tried to mislead police by giving false information.
And he “most certainly” never took pictures of Courtney using his cellphone.
After proceedings, an emotional Juanita said: “He stands in that courtroom and lies. I am tired of listening to him. He must say what he did and allow us to grieve and my child to rest in peace.”
On Tuesday, 4 September, Courtney would have turned five.
The State rested and the matter continues on Monday, when pathologist, Segaran Naidoo, will take the stand for the defence.