Saunders acted normal when told of Courtney’s disappearance, court hears

Mortimer Saunders this week admitted to poisoning, beating, choking and suffocating Courtney Pieters in May 2017, but denied raping her.

FILE: Alleged child killer Mortimer Saunders sits in court before he pleaded guilty to murdering three-year-old Courtney Pieters. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - In the Courtney Pieters murder trial, a State witness has testified the accused appeared to act normal after she told him the three-year-old had disappeared from their Elsies River home.

Mortimer Saunders this week admitted to poisoning, beating, choking and suffocating the child in May 2017, but denied raping her.

The State has refused to accept the accused’s admissions, which means two not guilty pleas have been entered into the record.

Marsha Wenn - who lives in a Wendy house on the same property as Courtney Pieters’ family - says she panicked when she realised the three-year-old girl had disappeared after she was left with her six-year-old brother while their mother went to work.

Wenn used to look after the deceased but stopped around four weeks before she went missing.

The witness claims during that time, Juanita Pieters would leave her daughter to sleep with no adult supervision, or if she was awake, would take her to a neighbour.

Wenn says she wasn’t always aware of when and how often the young girl was left alone.

She says she was in and out of the main house on the morning of the deceased’s disappearance and asked Saunders where she was.

Wenn has testified that all the while Saunders seemed normal and reacted in no way.

The prosecution also showed the witness a photo of the murdered girl and Wenn explained it was taken with the accused’s phone while the child was lying on his bed.

He’d sent the photo to her sister to be used for a missing person's flyer.

SEARCH FOR COURTNEY PIETERS

The woman who discovered the remains of Courtney Pieters in Epping has taken the stand in the trial against her killer.

Delft Neighbour Watch member Pamela Scholtz found Courtney's body on Saturday, 13 May, while searching an area near train tracks close to factories in Epping Industria.

Scholtz says she heard about the three-year-old’s disappearance on the news and decided to head to Elsies River to help with the search.

The State witness sobbed bitterly as she explained how she scratched through leaves and came across the child’s body, recognising her denim shorts with an embroidered flower.

The emotional community worker says the girl’s shorts were unzipped, she had no shoes on and the top half of her body was covered by a thorny bush.

Traumatised and emotional, she then sat down on the tracks and called out to two of her colleagues and a police captain who were searching surrounding areas.

Scholtz says Saunders was part of a different search party.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)