Elsies Rivier residents gather at Epping, where a body believed to be that of Courtney Pieters, who disappeared from near her home in Elsies River over a week ago, was found. Pictures: BHEKI RADEBE
Elsies Rivier residents gather at Epping, where a body believed to be that of Courtney Pieters, who disappeared from near her home in Elsies River over a week ago, was found. Pictures: BHEKI RADEBE
Courtney Pieters
Courtney Pieters
Residents gather to hold a night vigil at the home of Courtney Pieters.
Residents gather to hold a night vigil at the home of Courtney Pieters.
Courtney's father Aaron Fourie and mother Juanita Pieters.
Courtney's father Aaron Fourie and mother Juanita Pieters.
“They first saw the feet sticking out.”

This was the grim discovery yesterday by a search party looking for a missing 3-year-old Cape Town girl. The body found in the shallow grave off Epping’s Bofors Circle is believed to be that of Courtney Pieters, the Elsies River girl who went missing from outside her Pluto Street home nine days ago.

The death is one of a number of child murders which have occurred in the province in recent months. The body was found yesterday behind the SPCA in Elsies River, a kilometre from where Courtney lived.

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who was on the scene and part of the search group, said more than 300 neighbourhood watch members, NGOs, councillors and residents helped in the search.

 

 

Reverend Chris Nissen, commissioner for the Western Cape branch of the Human Rights Commissioner of South Africa, said he had been part of the search party.

Imraahn Mukkadam, deputy chairperson of the Elsies River Community Policing Forum, said: “One of the search groups came across the body in a walk-through off Bofors Circle in Epping.”

He said the walk-through was open during the day and passes between two factories.

There was a sombre mood as a mortuary van came to collect the body after 6pm yesterday.

There have been no arrests

When Weekend Argus visited the scene, a large crowd was gathered outside the factory near where the body was found. Angry residents blamed the government for not doing enough to protect their children.

Plato said: “Since 10 o’clock this morning, we’ve been busy looking for Courtney. We searched each and every piece of vacant land. One of the teams was despatched this side (Bofors Circle) and they looked into each of every part of soft sand.

“We looked for any sign of where there might be a shallow grave and the teams found a shallow grave. They first saw the feet sticking out.“Police are following up leads. There are cameras around (the scene). I asked the general in charge of SAPS, the cluster commander, and he confirmed there are strong leads they are following up. Our hope is very, very soon we (will find) the person or persons responsible.”

Plato confirmed the Pieters family were receiving trauma counselling and that one of the family had visited the scene earlier for a preliminary identification.

Courtney’s father Aaron Fourie said: “This is a very difficult time for us.”

Family spokesperson Roegchanda Pascoe said: “We are very emotional. People are gathered outside the house and everyone is delivering beautiful tributes. Everyone came to give their sympathies.”

Pascoe, who is the chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, said the family were not holding up well. “The community has judged Juanita (Pieters) for going to work (and leaving Courtney in the care of others). I don’t support the rest in peace process. It can be preventative. We need support. As a community, we should support each other. We need to stand together.”

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed the body of a child had been found. “As part of an ongoing search for the missing 3-year-old girl from Elsies River, police and community volunteers discovered a child’s body in Bofors Circle in Epping at 2pm this afternoon. Crime scene experts and forensic pathologists were called to the scene.

“The body has been taken to the mortuary, where further tests will be conducted to determine if it is that of missing Courtney Pieters of Elsies River.”

Comments poured in on to the Elsies River Gangwatch Facebook page. Beverley Yates wrote: “Ooh so sad rip little angel condolences to the parents” (sic)

Melodie Kingma wrote: “Another tragedy - Guptas can have military protection but not our children!!! Time to physically castrate - whether it stops or not - I am sure it will make them think twice before they take the life of a small child.”

The province has been rocked by several child deaths this year:

* On May 1, 4-year-old Iyapha Yamile’s mutilated body was discovered stuffed in a plastic bag in a toilet in Khayelitsha just three blocks from her Mankankaza Street home.

* In March, 13-year-old Rene Tracy Roman’s half-naked body was found near her Lavender Hill home 11 days after her March 10 disappearance.

Andrew Plaatjies has been charged in connection with the teenager’s death. He also faces a charge of attempted rape.

* 11-year-old Stacha Arendse was reported missing by her family on March 27.

The Grade 7 Tafelsig Primary School pupil’s naked body was found a day later in a field in Tafelsig. Police say she was raped and murdered.

* On March 24, 12-year-old Nathaniel David’s body was found hanging from a fence at Netreg train station, near his Bonteheuwel home.

* On April 6, Spanish national Mario Yela was arrested in Hout Bay in connection with the murders of his 3-year-old twins, Maximo and Octavia.