Courtney Pieters murder accused won't testify, case postponed for final arguments

The man accused of the rape and murder of 3-year-old Courtney Pieters will not testify in his defence and his lawyer closed his case in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. 

"That is then the case for the defence and we close our case," defence lawyer Mornay Calitz said after deciding to not call his client, Mortimer Saunders, to give evidence.

The defence and the State are expected to return to court on September 17 to submit their closing arguments in the case.

In a written plea, Saunders pleaded guilty to murder, but denied raping the toddler. Instead, he claimed that he used his fingers to penetrate her after she died.

Pieters' disappearance from her mother's Elsies River house in May 2017 set off a massive search. Her body was later found in Epping, an industrial area in Cape Town.

The court previously heard that the accused poisoned her and choked her, and used a towel to cover her mouth.

Read: Defence pathologist stands by his testimony on Courtney Pieters rape claims ( Warning: graphic details)

He claimed he became irritated because the little girl wanted to watch television in his room in the same house which she and her mother lived in, and that he wanted to sleep. He also claimed that there were ill feelings between himself and the child's mother, Juanita.

In court on Wednesday, Judge Pearl Mantame told the accused: "Your counsel doesn't want to put you on the stand and as a result, your case has been closed."

He was asked if he understood that final arguments would be prepared and that he would return to court for that.

An ash-faced Saunders nodded in agreement.

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