Residents, NGO celebrating the life of the slain tot in Elsies River
Cape Town - The family of murdered Courtney Pieters came together at the weekend in Salberau Estate, Elsies River, to celebrate her short life.

On Monday 4 September, the three-year-old girl would have celebrated her crown birthday.

Instead, an emotional memorial service was held in her honour, and on Saturday, a birthday party was thrown for the little girl who was raped and murdered earlier this year.

Pluto Street was a hive of activity on Saturday morning. The street was lined with tables as more than 500 children and adults were invited to the bash, organised by the community and an NGO which the family did not want to name.

Tables were laden with cake, cooldrinks and sweets while dozens of balloons added to the festive atmosphere.

Courtney Pieters, 3

Instead of singing happy birthday, a solemn prayer was said for Courtney before the party kicked off.

Courtney’s father, Aaron Fourie, says he had gone to a funeral in the morning and returned to find the party in full swing.

The dad says he was completely overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance, but says he is proud that his baby’s life was being celebrated and that they are able to give back to their community.

“We have always wanted to do this for her, and since she has become the voice of every child taken from their parents, we wanted to celebrate her life and also give back to the community who has supported us. The community organisations give so much to support us and we just wanted people to see why we do this. It was really great,” says Aaron.

Excited children got their faces painted, and a warm meal was served.

Aaron Fourie

Aaron says for the first time in a very long time, his family smiled as they watched everyone enjoy themselves.

“It was sad, but this is how we want to remember my baby. We want people to remember her as we do. I lost her too soon, but it makes me want to be a better person, someone she would be proud to call Daddy,” he says.

Little Courtney went missing on 3 May and following a nine-day search, her tiny body was found buried in a shallow grave, on a field at Bofors Circle, Epping Industria, close to her home.

A close friend, who had been boarding with the family at the time, Mortimer Saunders, 40, was arrested for her rape and murder.

Saunders will be back in court on 6 October after which the case will be moved to the Western Cape High Court for trial.