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Zuma slams police for treating Courtney’s mom ‘like criminal’

Zuma slams police for treating Courtney’s mom ‘like criminal’

Standing on little Courtney Pieters’ doorstep yesterday, President Jacob Zuma slammed the way in which police handled the disappearance and murder of the Cape Town three-year-old.

“When the police were asked to come and help, they almost treated the mother as the perpetrator instead of helping to look for the child,” said Zuma.

Had they came to the Elsies River house in the first place and searched it, “they could have found the body. They could have found the blood … [but] they did not react as if this was a serious matter”, Zuma said after visiting the family.

He would ask Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to address the problem, he said as he unveiled a plaque dedicated to Courtney on the wall of her family’s pink two-storey home in Pluto Street.

The little girl was found in Epping on Saturday, nine days after she disappeared from outside the house on May 4. The following day, police arrested Mortimer Saunders, 40, who had been a boarder in the house for two years.

“That a man who stays here can rape the child, kill the child in the bedroom … and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag … It shows something has gone wrong with society,” Zuma said.

The rate at which children and women were being raped and murdered indicated there was something wrong. He asked communities to form groups to protect women and children from violence.

“Police must double their efforts to help society. This is one of the saddest incidents I have ever come across. For a man who stays in the same house to commit a murder, stay awake and face the family [and] pretend he knows nothing …”

Roegchanda Pascoe, spokesman for the Pieters family, said Courtney’s mother Juanita went to the police station to report her daughter’s disappearance but was turned away. “Officers told her to go look for her child and return in 48 hours to report her missing. Police sniffer dogs only arrived here nine days after her disappearance,” she said.

The community began searching for the child and found her body in a shallow grave.

Pascoe said Courtney’s last words to her mother before she left for work at a fast-food restaurant were: “Mommy, will you bring us party packets this evening?”

“Yes, I will,” Pieters replied before kissing Courtney and her seven-year-old brother.

When Pieters got home from work, said Pascoe, her son ran to her screaming: “Mommy, Courtney is gone.”

She dropped the party packets, said Pascoe, and started her frantic search for the child.


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