Defence frustrated by pace of Mortimer Saunders' trial

The pace of the trial against Mortimer Saunders, accused of the rape and murder of Courtney Pieters, was criticised by the defence on Wednesday, after the prosecution asked for a week-long postponement owing to the unavailability of the State's pathologist.

Defence advocate Mornay Calitz said it felt like "one step forward, two steps back" after prosecutor Esmeralda Cecil informed Western Cape High Court judge Pearl Mantame that Professor Johan Dempers would only be available next Wednesday for further testimony.

READ: Courtney Pieters' cause of death confirmed (Warning: sensitive details)

Mantame agreed, saying she thought the State would have concluded their case by now.

Earlier, histologist John Segole testified on the process surrounding the further testing of little Courtney's tissue conducted earlier this month.

This was to determine if the 3-year-old had been raped before her death.

READ Suffer little children: The missing, the lost and the dead

Charges of premeditated murder and rape

Dempers had previously testified on the results of Segole's work, after extra research on detecting red blood cells had been brought to his attention.

An arrangement was also made for the red cell marker tests to be done through a private laboratory.

However, although he could conclude that the samples did indeed show the presence of red blood cells, he too could not say whether the bleeding happened before or after Courtney's death.

Pieters' decomposing body was discovered in Epping Industria in May, nine days after her disappearance from her Elsies River home.

Saunders faces charges of premeditated murder and rape but denies that he planned the toddler's death or that he raped her while she was alive.

In his plea explanation, he confessed to murder and to using his fingers to penetrate her after her death.

Saunders said he had given Pieters ant poison to make her sick, before he choked her, beat her, and used a towel to close her mouth.

He claimed he had done it because of "ill feelings" between him and her mother, Juanita.

Saunders - a childhood friend of Pieters' father who lived in the same house - had also apparently been irritated because the toddler wanted to watch TV in his room and he wanted to sleep.

The trial continues on Wednesday, August 29.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter