#CourtneyPieters: Tearful witness describes finding toddler's body

Murder suspect Mortimer Saunders at the Cape Town high court, where he is on trial for the murder of Courtney Pieters. Picture: Siphephile Sibanyoni/ African News Agency (ANA).

Murder suspect Mortimer Saunders at the Cape Town high court, where he is on trial for the murder of Courtney Pieters. Picture: Siphephile Sibanyoni/ African News Agency (ANA).

Published May 30, 2018


Cape Town - The woman who found the body of three-year-old Courtney Pieters told the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday that she was traumatised when she saw the child's tiny legs sticking out from under tree branches on May 13 last year.

Pamela Schultz, of neighbourhood watch from Leiden in Delft, was testifying in the trial of Mortimer Saunders who is accused of raping and murdering the toddler.

Schultz broke down on the witness stand as she recalled the experience.

“I saw the child lying there by the train tracks where I searched, half-dead tree branches were on top of her upper body. I saw her bottom part to her feet and I knew it was her because the mother gave a proper description of what she had been wearing when she went missing.”

Read:  #CourtneyPieters: Mom accepts responsibility for leaving kids alone



She told the court she was alone on the side of the field as the rest of the people in her group continued to search in the vicinity.

“I just went to sit down for a little while because I was very emotional. The time was exactly 1:30 pm when I found the body. I was very close to the body when I found it, I had just turned myself and there she was lying,” she said.

She told the court that she had joined the search after she learned about the incident on the television news and seen an appeal to neighbourhood watches and the public to join the search.

She said she decided to help with the search on May 9 which was a Tuesday and went to Courtney’s home where she found other people deciding on which areas to search.

Schultz said she came back the following day and took Juanita Pieters, the child's mother, to the trauma centre in Woodstock, returning to the family's house in the afternoon. In the evening, houses in the area were searched as a search warrant had been obtained by police.

“We came back and started searching Marsha’s wendy house in the backyard.”

Courtney’s cousin, Marsha Wenn, lived in a wendy house in the backyard of the home from which Courtney went missing.

“Nothing was found and then we went to Mortimer’s room and we found nothing there.”

She told the court police searched Saunders's room, while he sat on his bed.

“All I asked him was if that was his room and he said yes. I said you must clean up your room, it was very untidy for a young man. When I spoke to him, he did not say anything but looked at me before he put his head down again,” the court heard.

“We searched his cupboard and there was nothing there. There was a couch next to the window and I did press on it, there was nothing in there. In front of the couch, there was a bag which I searched and found lots of shopping bags inside and after that I left the room," she said.

On the day the body was found, she said Saunders had taken part in the search but was not in her group as they were split into several search parties.

Saunders's defence lawyer Morné Calitz asked Schultz if she could recall the distance between her and the body when she found it. She testified that it was a matter of centimetres, adding that she noticed that Courtney's jeans were unzipped and that she had no shoes on her feet. 

"I saw her zip was open and from there I saw until her feet, she had no shoes on. I did not see blood on the jeans and I was too traumatised to notice everything of that sort," she said. 

Calitz further asked if Schultz had seen Saunders with the rest of the people after the scene was declared a crime scene, but she said she hadn't. She also testified that she couldn't comment on his behaviour, as she had never met him before. 

Courtney was last seen alive on May 4, 2017, 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 and Saunders was arrested the following day.

Saunders, who was a tenant at the family's home, has admitted to killing the child after giving her ant poison. He has denied raping her but said he used his fingers to penetrate her after the murder. 

The case was postponed to June 6 when more witnesses, including a state pathologist, are expected to testify.

African News Agency/ANA

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