Courtney Pieters case postponed as prosecutor booked off sick

The trial of the man accused of the premeditated murder and rape of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters was postponed in the Western Cape High Court because the prosecutor was sick.

Advocate Kripan Pillay told Judge Pearl Mantame that his colleague Esmeralda Cecil was unable to be present in court.

Read: Courtney Pieters murder trial to continue

"She has been booked off," said Pillay, asking for the matter to be postponed to August 21.

"I'm a bit frustrated but no objection," defence advocate Mornay Calitz said in response to the delay.

Mantame granted the postponement.

Saunders was cuffed before he was led out of court. He carried the orange cold drink he had with him back down the stairs to the court's holding cells.

The case was postponed last week for consultations related to further forensic tests the State had conducted on tissue samples taken from Pieters' body.

Read more: Courtney Pieters murder trial postponed for consultations over forensic tests

Saunders was charged with premeditated murder and rape after Pieters' body was found several days after she went missing in a shallow grave in Epping, an industrial area of Cape Town.

If he is found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

However, he has only pleaded guilty to murder, which carries with it a lesser sentence of 15 years.

He has also denied the charge of rape and pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a corpse instead, which carries no minimum sentence. A guilty verdict of rape of a minor could result in a 15-year sentence.

He was a tenant in the house where Pieters' mother, Juanita, lived and the court has heard that he had been irritated at the time of her death because of "ill feelings" with her mother and because she wanted to watch television in his room.