Final goodbye: Courtney Pieters to be laid to rest

Courtney Pieters' body was found dumped in Epping last weekend, after she had gone missing a few days earlier.

Community members gather ahead of Courtney Pieters' funeral in Elsies River on  20 May 2017. Picture: Monique Mortlock/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The three-year-old Elsies River child who was raped and killed, allegedly by a man who was a tenant at her family home, will be laid to rest on Saturday.

Courtney Pieters' body was found dumped in Epping last weekend, after she had gone missing a few days earlier.

She is believed to have been kidnapped, raped and murdered by 40-year-old-man Mortimer Saunders.

The 40-year-old man will make another court appearance next week.

WATCH: Fear and loathing Goodwood Magistrates court as Pieters murder accused appears

Hundreds of people have crammed into the Adriaanse Hall in Clarke's Estate, Elsies River. An assortment of pink, white and yellow flowers adorn the altar.

Outside, even more people are trying to gain entry and motorcyclists have also pitched in support of the family.

Elsies River resident Sandra Layman says Pieters' tragic end has brought the community together like never before.

“We are very heartsore. Just the thought of it, this toddler brought this community together. She didn’t deserve to die like this.”

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who according to community members was closely involved in the search for the three-year-old, is also in attendance.

The Elsies River Early Childhood Development Forum's Hilton Green says they're continuing to support the child's family.

“The family is doing very well at this moment, but they are still going through a lot of trauma. The community is supporting the family.”


Earlier this week, President Jacob Zuma visited Pieters' family. He vowed to return to the Elsies River community to assess interventions taken by law enforcement authorities to reduce crime.

He also alluded to possible talks in a bid to strengthen criminal laws in the country.

“As citizens of this country, we must say enough is enough. We must establish groups to protect our women and children. This cannot be accepted.”

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula also attended a memorial service at the Elsies River Civic Centre, in honour of the three-year-old girl.

WATCH: Mbalula promises Elsies River it's own satellite police station

At the same time, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery says more needs to be done to prevent violence against women and children.

Jeffery has described the recent attacks on women and children as "horrific".

“These cases are really horrific and they’re a terrible reflection of humanity. We will do whatever we can to ensure the perpetrators are brought to book and tried in court.”

Jeffery expressed his concern about crimes committed by people known by victims.

“The key issues is what is going wrong in society for men to do this and what can we do in society to prevent this.”

He adds the department is in partnership with Unicef to develop a new sexual offences courts model, involving less resources and costs for areas experiencing infrastructural challenges, such as rural regions.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)