By Yaseen Kippie
There was a highly-charged atmosphere at the Goodwood magistrates court on Wednesday, as the 40 year old suspect in the murder case of three year old Courtney Pieters made his first appearance. Close to 200 people came to the court to show their support of the Pieters as well as to voice their anger at the justice system.
Outside, scores of community members held placards calling for the death penalty, with others warning they would take the law into the own hands. The tension was palpable as angry protesters confronted the police, accusing them of protecting criminals.
Mortimer Saunders was arrested a day after the toddler’s body was found in Epping. The suspect, who had been lodging at the Pieter’s home in Elsies River, was part of the search for the missing girl. The arrest came after video footage emerged showing Saunders repeatedly try to cover the shallow grave in which he had buried her.
“The community is very upset and furious with the suspect. They just want to see justice coming out of this. I think they will oppose bail. They do not want him to get bail,” said one community elder.
Youth from Elsies River have voiced their sadness at the murder of Courtney Pieters.
“We feel very disappointed and we feel sad for the mother. He must not get bail! We feel unsafe now because the children are being affected by the gangsters.”
As many were protesting against the justice system outside the magistrate’s court, a police truck drove pass with the suspect allegedly in it. People ran after it and entered the gates in order to get a glimpse and possibly try to capture the suspect.
“The law is failing us. We want him to get bail so that we can show him what must be done with him. He’s going to get 10 or 20 years, but then he’ll come back or he’ll come back earlier by playing ‘mal’ (mentally ill). We want to kill him ourselves,” said one incensed mother.
“The law is protecting him; he gets a warm bed. They don’t want to bring the death penalty in. His father is a priest at the old apostolic church. He comes out of a good home, but even if that’s the case, a devil is a devil. The priest can also be a devil. Their robes mean nothing- they are devils!”
Another demonstrator added: “My daughter in law told that Mortimer is the same man that told me that if I find Courtney I must phone the police. People are saying that Mr Saunders has a six-year old daughter himself. ”
In the first court hearing since the arrest, Saunders was charged with one count of murder, one count of kidnapping and two counts of rape. Many police officers were stationed at the entrance of the courtroom and refused to allow any additional people into the court room. There was also a line of police officers between the public gallery and dock to protect the suspect. Police wore wearing bulletproof vests.
Community members inside the courtroom were told to remain quiet as Magistrate Paul Visagie warned the public that he would not allow any disruptions during the proceedings.
Court attendees say that it is clear the suspect does not want to apply for bail.
The next court hearing will happen on the 24th May. VOC