30 May 2018

South Africa: Photo Used for Courtney Pieters' Missing Person Flyers Came From Her Killer's Phone (Warning - Sensitive Details)

Photo: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
Western Cape High Court in Cape Town (file photo).

The photograph used in missing person flyers created during the search for Courtney Pieters came from the phone of her killer, Mortimer Saunders, the toddler's relative testified in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

In the image, the three-year-old is on Saunders' bed in his room, State witness Marsha Wenn testified.

Wenn - the niece of Courtney's father Aaron Fourie - said her little girl, Courtney and Saunders' child had been friends and often played together.

Defence advocate Mornay Calitz said his client said Wenn's daughter had taken the picture.

Saunders appeared normal

Wenn recognised the image and confirmed that her child loved playing with cellphones and taking photos.

Saunders - a tenant in the same house in which Courtney and her family lived - had told Wenn that her daughter had taken the photograph, which he sent to Wenn's sister for the flyers, she testified.

Saunders faces charges of premeditated murder and rape but denies that the toddler's death on May 4, 2017, was planned or that he had sex with her while she was alive.

In his plea explanation, he confessed to murder and to using his fingers to penetrate her after her death.

The day Courtney went missing, Wenn said she helped form search groups, along with neighbours. Their efforts continued into the early hours of the next morning and eight days thereafter.

Earlier that day, Courtney's brother, Adrian, told Wenn that his sister had been watching TV in Saunders' room, the only one which was connected to DStv.

When she later asked the accused if Courtney had still been watching TV, he said the child had left and he didn't know where she had gone.

He had appeared "normal" to her, Wenn recalled.

Babysitting claims disputed

According to the testimony of Juanita Pieters, Courtney's mother, Wenn had looked after Courtney the week before her disappearance, but she didn't have money to pay her the next week.

Wenn - who is unemployed and a mother of an infant and a schoolgoing child - said this was not true. She testified that for four weeks before Courtney went missing, she didn't look after her.

She added that, when Juanita left for work, Courtney would be in the bedroom of the main house if she was asleep. If she was awake, her mother would take her to another woman named Crystal.

Wenn confirmed she had taken care of the toddler in March or April.

She stopped when Aaron had been told to stay away from work until his employer called him to return. He had been home for two weeks, Wenn recalled.

In his plea explanation on Monday, Saunders said he had given Courtney ant poison, which he previously used for an ant problem, to make her sick, before he choked and beat her, while using a towel to close her mouth.

He claimed he had done it because of "ill feelings" between him and Juanita.

Saunders - a childhood friend of Courtney's father - had also ostensibly been irritated because the toddler had wanted to watch TV in his room and he had wanted to sleep.

Wenn denied any knowledge of an ant problem in the house. She cleaned the home in Pluto Street every day.

However, she acknowledged that the accused had a fridge and groceries in his bedroom where he cooked.

During cross-examination, Calitz said Juanita testified that, prior to paying Wenn to take care of Courtney, she would just assume that Wenn would keep an eye on the little girl.

"She can't assume I am taking care of the child if she didn't tell me. She just left the house," an upset Wenn responded.

Courtney unattended

When asked if it was routine to leave Courtney alone when everyone else went to work, Wenn replied: "When they leave, they won't say she was in the house. Sometimes they would take her to Poekoe (a friend). If not, she was left unattended."

Wenn would only become aware of Courtney's presence in the house when the three-year-old cried when she woke up.

She said she wouldn't say Courtney had been comfortable around Saunders, but the toddler would take things from him if she saw other children do the same. She would also watch TV in his room if other children were around.

The little girl was shy and would never take anything from someone she didn't know, she told Judge Pearl Mantame.

The trial continues.

Source: News24

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