Our worst fears were confirmed last Saturday, our hopes and prayers dealt a cruel blow, when the body of little Courtney Pieters was found dumped on a field in Epping Industria, about 600m from the little girl’s home in Salberau, Elsies River.
The Daily Voice had been following the story closely every day, and was at the scene when the news broke – a little too close for comfort.
We reported on the desperate search for the child, the frustration, the hope and despair, the tears and fears, and in the end, the shock and grief of the family and the community.
We also aired your views – the public – who were very passionate and vocal about the case.
People shared in the loss of the family and offered sympathies and condolences.
This tragedy has really united the people of Elsies, and mothers and fathers all over the Cape Flats.
But there were also those who asked questions and pointed fingers.
It’s never the right time to blame people in their time of grief.
But three important points were raised, and we need answers to these questions if we are to learn from this tragedy and prevent the deaths of more of our children:
* How can a mother and father go to work and leave little children at home without proper supervision?
* Who can we trust to look after our kids?
* Why did police not search the house right from the start?
The first issue deals with all-too common socio-economic problems on the Flats.
Times are tough, it’s a battle to put food on the table, schooling is expensive.
If there are no oumas around, who can afford a nanny?
Gone are the days of single-income families.
Courtney’s parents Juanita and Aaron work.
BETRAYED: Parents Juanita Pieters with Aaron Fourie and Roegshanda Pascoe at court
Most parents are under pressure to provide and protect, and this leaves laaities at risk during the day.
On the next point, it is a well-known fact that the main perpetrators of violence against children are family members and neighbours – people known and trusted by the victims.
This was again (allegedly) the case with Courtney.
About 15 people live in their double-storey maisonette, all family, relatives or close friends
The suspect, Mortimer Saunders, was a long-time tenant in the house and was a childhood friend of Courtney’s dad.
They knew each other for decades, they loved him, the children called him “uncle”.
He lived with the family, played with the kids and bought them snacks.
How do you suspect someone like that of raping and murdering your three-year-old girl? You don’t.
We teach our kids not to talk to strangers, but not close, trusted family friends.
What could the parents have done to stop Saunders from allegedly committing such a sickening crime? Not much.
The third point, the police work on this case, is a different matter, though.
That the cops did not turn that house upside down on Day 1 of the search is unacceptable.
The Daily Voice team experienced first hand the inescapable stench of death the minute we stepped into the house.
There were pools of blood in the fridge, which no one could explain.
Where was the investigation team? Where were the sniffer dogs?
Why did the Daily Voice have to point it out on our front page?
The family had several complaints about the investigation, that cops were slapgat and unresponsive.
They claimed that one resident denied police access to their house without a search warrant?
Isn’t that a red flag?
Remember the case of murdered Rene-Tracy Roman from Lavender Hill, where suspect Andrew Plaatjies previously refused to allow cops in his house?
That little girl’s body was found in a Wendy house in the backyard.
Clearly the police didn’t remember that case – less than two months later.
Given the circumstances of this case, Munier finds it very hard to blame Courtney’s family.
That is not to say police have blood on their hands.
But if cops had done a proper job, there would have been a better chance of finding Courtney sooner – perhaps still alive.