Police escort Courtney Pieters' mother from court after mob justice threats

2017-05-24 15:02
Mortimer Saunders, 40, appeared in the Goodwood Magistrate's court on Tuesday for the murder and rape of three-year-old Courtney Pieters. (James de Villiers, News24)

Mortimer Saunders, 40, appeared in the Goodwood Magistrate's court on Tuesday for the murder and rape of three-year-old Courtney Pieters. (James de Villiers, News24)

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Cape Town – Police had to escort the mother of murdered three-year-old Courtney Pieters out of the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday morning after people threatened to attack her.

Juanita Pieters, 42, attended the hearing of Mortimer Saunders, 40, accused of raping and killing Courtney.

Courtney was last seen alive on May 4, when she was playing in front of her family home in Elsies River. Her body was found in a shallow grave in Epping Industria on May 13. 

About 30 Elsies River residents waited outside the court building for her. Daniel Dekker, who took part in the search for Courtney, said they wanted to subject her to "mob justice" for her alleged negligence. 

"They said the mother was negligent about a lot of stuff. There are a lot of rumours going around, such as that she left the child in the care of other young children and allowed the child to play with Mortimer without watching her," Dekker told News24. 

They wanted to hold her accountable for allowing Courtney to be abused. 

"Hulle was befok. Hulle sou haar erg seermaak. [They were extremely angry, they would’ve hurt her badly]," Dekker said in Afrikaans.

Trial postponed

Inside a packed courtroom, people quietly waited for Saunders to appear. Entering the dock, a clean-shaven Saunders kept his head down and then looked at Magistrate Paul Visagie, as cameras clicked around him. 

He wore a black hoodie and black pants and showed little emotion. 

The court previously heard that Saunders was appealing the outcome of a means test which determined that he did not qualify for legal aid.

Defence attorney Collin Lakay said Saunders had been successful in his appeal and a legal aid attorney, Tanya Nöcker, had been appointed to represent him. 

Nöcker said Saunders would not apply for bail at present. Lakay had previously said that Saunders would not apply for bail, as he feared for his safety.

Prosecutor Adnaan Gelderbloem asked the court to postpone the matter to August 24 for further investigation. DNA reports, as well as witness and forensic statements, were still outstanding, he said.

Visagie postponed the matter to August 24.

Saunders remains in custody. 

'They blame the mother for the rape'

Community members held posters with the words: "Mortimer praat die waarheid asb. Wat het die kind aan jou gedoen [Mortimer please tell the truth. What did the child do to you?]."

Juanita, wearing black, looked visibly distressed and rubbed her eyes. 

After Saunders’s appearance, she quickly left the courtroom and police drove her away through a back entrance.

Mitchells Plain crisis forum coordinator Joanie Fredericks, who helped the family following Courtney’s disappearance, said the mother was safely at her Elsies River home. 

"There is a fear that the community members might come to her home to attack her," Fredericks said. 

"They blame the mother for the rape. They believe she is hiding something."

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more on:    courtney pieters  |  cape town  |  crime

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