12 June 2018

South Africa: Courtney Pieters Murder Accused Arrested in Same Clothes Worn in 'Wanted' Photos

Mortimer Saunders was arrested dressed in the same clothing he had worn the day he was recorded allegedly disposing of three-year-old Courtney Pieters' body.

Arresting officer Constable Bradly Spogter of the Elsies River police station testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday that he had received a tip-off on Saunders's whereabouts on his official cellphone while on patrol on May 14, 2017.

Courtney had been reported missing on May 4, and her body was found nine days later.

The call was from a private number, Spogter said, and the woman on the other end of the line gave him directions to a house in Jonah Street.

When he entered the servant's quarters on the property, believed to belong to a friend of the accused, Spogter spotted Saunders sitting on a chair, watching TV.

He was wearing a red golf T-shirt, jeans and Caterpillar boots - the same clothes he had worn in the CCTV footage which ostensibly shows him dumping Pieters' body in Epping Industria.

Stills of the footage had been disseminated as authorities searched for Saunders.

Spogter said, after he entered the house, Saunders got up and turned to start walking away from him.

"To me, it was an indication he wanted to get away from me. I grabbed him from behind by the backside of his jeans," the constable testified.

Saunders was read his rights and taken to the holding cells of the Elsies River police station, Spogter said. The accused had given his full cooperation.

Advocate Mornay Calitz, for Saunders, said his client agreed with Spogter's account, but said he had only stood up when he was arrested.

He denied trying to flee.

'Skollies run away'

Spogter responded that, when Saunders turned his back, it appeared to him that the suspect had wanted to flee.

In his experience, "skollies run away".

Calitz also pointed out that, following his client's arrest, he had pointed out where Courtney had been discarded and had also made a confession. Spogter agreed.

Saunders faces charges of premeditated murder and rape but denies that the toddler's death 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.

Saunders said he had given Courtney ant poison to make her sick, before he choked and beat her and used a towel to close her mouth.

He claimed he had done it because of "ill feelings" between him and Juanita, the toddler's mother.

Saunders - a childhood friend of Courtney's father who lived in the same house - had also ostensibly been irritated because the little girl had wanted to watch TV in his room, and he had wanted to sleep.

Calitz on Wednesday also informed the court that he wished to recall DNA expert Luthando Thiya. The State had no objection and the application was granted.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Source: News24

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