Child killer Mortimer Saunders was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters. FILE PHOTO: Noor Slamdien/African News Agency/ANA

CAPE TOWN - Elsies River residents on Tuesday said they have renewed faith in the justice system after the sentencing of child killer Mortimer Saunders. 

The high court in Cape Town on Tuesday, sentenced Saunders to two life terms in prison. The sentences will run consecutively.

Saunders, who was convicted in November of the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters, was also declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The self-confessed child killer was arrested in May 2017, after the body of Pieters was found in Epping Industria, nine days after she was reported missing from her Elsies River home.

Saunders denied raping the girl before she died but has admitted to necrophilia. He also claimed that she died after he fed her ant poison because she had been disturbing him at the house he shared with her and her family.

Handing down the sentence, Western Cape High Court Judge Babalwa Mantame said: “This court heard evidence on the murder statistics in the Western Cape, more especially the cluster in which Elsies River falls under and from which this case emanates from.

“The accused committed the most horrendous crime including the extent of violence used, the cruelty of the attack, the nature and character of the victim normally aggravating the crime. For count one, which is rape, the court sentences you to life imprisonment. For count two (murder), the court sentences you to life imprisonment and this court declares you unfit to possess a firearm.”

Supporters of the Pieters family started shouting and cheering from the public gallery after the judge handed down the sentence.

Supporters in the public gallery cheer and shout in delight after two life term sentence was handed down to Mortimer Saunders who raped and killed three-year-old Courtney Pieters. VIDEO: Songezo Ndlendle/African News Agency (ANA)

Daniel Du Plessis, member of Elsies River Community Police Forum, said residents were happy that justice had been served and the court had listened to their plea for a minimum of two life sentences.

“We have now confidence in the justice system as the residents of Elsies River,” he said.

Claire Beukes from Manenberg said she was satisfied with the sentence as it sent a good message to offenders.

Last week, social development department probation officer Jeremy Kessie, who presented a sentencing report to the court, said he was concerned about Saunders’ high risk of harm to the public.

“Yes, the accused constitutes a high risk to the public, more to the weak and vulnerable. Specifically to the children. The risk of harm to the public is high,” said Kassie.

African News Agency (ANA)