Mother of murdered Courtney Pieters (3) granted immunity from prosecution

Judge Babalwa Mantame says Juanita Pieters showed remorse and took responsibility for leaving her children unattended on the day Courtney disappeared.

Mortimer Saunders was found guilty of murdering three-year-old Courtney Pieters in 2017. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The mother of murdered three-year-old Courtney Pieters has been granted immunity from prosecution in the Western Cape High Court.

The court had warned Juanita Pieters she could face child neglect charges because she left her daughter in the care of her seven-year-old son when she left for work on 4 May 2017.

Mortimer Saunders, who shared a house with the family, was convicted of the rape and premeditated murder of the little girl on Wednesday.

Judge Babalwa Mantame says Pieters showed remorse and took responsibility for leaving her children unattended on the day Courtney disappeared.

During her testimony, the mother told the court she feels hurt and partly to blame for her daughter's death.

Following an apology from her daughter's killer during court proceedings, the mother said she had forgiven Mortimer Saunders, but would never forget that he took her child away from her.

She said Saunders showed the little girl love and her daughter, in turn, was very fond of him.

Mantame says the court considers the family's economic status as Pieters left her children alone to go out and earn a living, while not being able to afford to pay someone to take care of them.

The judge adds unfortunately, the children suffered the consequences of being born into a poverty stricken society.

'ONE OF THE MOST BRUTAL, VICOUS & RUTHLESS ATTACKS'

The presiding judge in the rape and murder trial has described the crime as one of the most brutal, vicious and ruthless attacks the court has ever seen.

Mantame says Saunders covered his tracks well and attempted to hide evidence while helping police, relatives and Elsies River residents search for the missing child for nine days.

WATCH: Mortimer Saunders found guilty on all charges

She says Saunders abused his position of trust and Courtney was a young, defenceless child who died a long and torturous death.

Saunders admitted to necrophilia, feeding the girl poison and choking and suffocating her because she was annoying him and also to get back at her mother with whom he didn't get along.

An Elsie's River resident was among those in the public gallery. She said: “We are all happy, we are satisfied, we’re just waiting on the sentencing and we hope it will be satisfying to us. We pray that the judge will give him three life sentences.”

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)