Weekend Argus is in possession of the neatly written one-page letter, entitled “Apology to family” wherein Saunders speaks about the pain he caused the Pieters family and his own.
“I deeply regret what I’ve done and I’m truly ashamed for my actions on that day. I will have to live with the fact that I’m responsible for a child’s death,” said the letter written in capital letters.
Saunders, who was found guilty of the rape and premeditated murder of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters, was in the dock this week in the Western Cape High Court as sentencing procedures continued.
The little girl’s body was found on May 13, 2017, near a dumping site in Epping and was positively identified by her parents the next day.
Her body was discovered nine days after she disappeared from her home.
In the letter, Saunders apologises to Courtney, her family, and to the community of Alberau, near Elsies River, for what he did.
“And if they can find it in their hearts to forgive me some day,” said the letter.
The court found that Saunders used ant poison on the toddler, in retaliation over a dispute he allegedly had with her mother, Juanita Pieters.
It emerged in court while the State and defence presented their mitigation and aggravation arguments, that Saunders, himself a father of three, was paranoid that he would be poisoned by his own mother, aunt and a former girlfriend.
According to the probation officer, Jeremy Kessie, Saunders was also paranoid that Juanita would poison his room.
In a rare move, Courtney’s father, Aaron Fourie, told reporters outside the court that they want Saunders to serve two life sentences.
“We are still very hurt by the trauma caused. It hurts even more because he was a childhood friend of mine. It hurts the most at night when we go to bed and you think about her not being there anymore,” said Fourie.
Social worker Evelyn Torode, told the court, that Courtney’s older teenage sister, blames herself for what happened.
Torode’s report also contained a document where Juanita wrote about how she felt following the death of her daughter.
“Juanita is struggling to come to terms with (the death of Courtney). She said she wanted the court to decide (the appropriate sentence) but her last words to me was ‘God does not rest’,” Torode said.
Outside court, Juanita said: “It’s not nice having to come back to court every time to sit and hear the things my baby had to go through. It hurts. We want this to be over,” she said.
In the letter, Saunders also thanks his family for their continued support. His family does not attend court regularly.
The case will continue on December 11.