FORGIVEN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Juanita Pieters, 42. Photo: Siphephile Sibanyoni /African News Agency/ANA
The mother of murdered toddler Courtney Pieters says she has forgiven her child’s killer.

Mortimer Saunders, 41, on Tuesday apologised to Juanita Pieters in the Western Cape High Court where he is on trial for the rape and murder of her three-year-old daughter.

At the end of his lawyer’s questions to Juanita, he asked that his counsel tell her that he is sorry for what he had done to her child.

The mother, after a long pause, and looking right at Saunders, said: “I have forgiven Mortimer, but I will never forget.”

On Monday, Saunders, who was a boarder in Courtney’s home in Salberau Estate, had admitted to killing the toddler after giving the child ant poison, but that the murder was not planned.

Explaining the presence of the poison, Saunders’ defence counsel said the accused did everything in his room, including cooking.

However, the State believes Courtney’s murder was premeditated.

And Juanita, 42, testified: “There was never ant problems in the house. The only problem we had were with cockroaches.”

Earlier, Juanita admitted to lying to police about not recognising Saunders on CCTV footage showing him dumping the body of her daughter.

“He (Saunders) was a very silent person and Mortimer loved Courtney very much,” she said.

The video shows Saunders dumping the little girl’s body on a veldjie in nearby Epping Industria.

“I was very shocked to see these photos and I lied to Captain Taylor and said ‘I don’t know this man’.

REJECT: Murder accused Mortimer Saunders. Photo: Siphephile Sibanyoni /African News Agency/ANA

“I could not believe it was Mortimer because, as we know, he is such a decent person and I did not expect it,” the mom testified.

On Monday, she testified that while Aaron and Saunders had grown up together and were good friends, she and Saunders did not get on well.

She says a day after Courtney’s body was found, on Sunday 14 May last year, she and Aaron were again fetched by Captain Taylor, this time for DNA samples.

“We got there and Captain Taylor asked that we call Mortimer to come to the police station,” she said.

Juanita said she did so and Saunders asked her: “What do they say? Who is it?”

She said she told him not to worry and that he should just come as they will talk when he gets to the police station.

She also told the court that she’d been in Saunders’ room a few times when he needed her to put in electricity in the meter, or when she had to do his washing.

Asked why she would do such things for him, she replied: “We did not like each other, but when he requested that I do something for him, I did it because he paid me to do it.”

She said Courtney often went into the room, but not alone.

“She would always go in there with her friends, cousins and even his daughter who always used to play with Courtney.”

On Monday, Saunders’ plea statement revealed he killed the toddler because he had issues with her mother.

After poisoning her, he panicked when he heard neighbours calling for her, and then choked her and wrapped a towel around her face.

He then confessed to molesting her dead body by using his fingers to penetrate her, which aroused him. However, he denied penetrating her with his penis.

On the rape charge, Saunders pleaded not guilty, while on the murder charge he pleaded guilty but argued it was not premeditated.

The State rejected his pleas, saying they believed the murder was premeditated.

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