Mortimer Saunders found guilty of rape, murder of Courtney Pieters (3)

Mortimer Saunders has been found guilty on charges of rape and premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.

Mortimer Saunders sits in the dock as he waits for court to start. Saunders was arrested after the body of Courtney Pieters (3) was found in Epping Industria in May 2017. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Mortimer Saunders has been found guilty on charges of rape and premeditated murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.

He was arrested shortly after her body was found in Epping Industria in May last year, nine days after she was reported missing from her Elsies River home.

During the trial, the State rejected a guilty plea from Saunders because he claimed that the murder was not premeditated and would not plead guilty to rape.

The public gallery in Court four erupted in cheers as emotional Elsies River residents heard Saunders was found guilty.

One of the residents, Suretta Steenkamp, says she’s elated.

“I’m so happy about the verdict because that’s what we wanted... she was just a three-year-old child.”

Saunders admitted to necrophilia, feeding the girl poison, as well as choking and suffocating Courtney, because she was annoying him and to get back at her mother Juanita Pieters, with whom he didn’t get along.

Judge Babalwa Mantame says the court is satisfied that the State was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Mantame says Saunders abused his position of trust and three-year-old Courtney Pieters was a young, defenceless child who died a long and torturous death.