/ 23 May 2017

Slice Of Life: ​A killer among us

Saafia February takes some time away from her desk at Newspaper House in Cape Town.
Saafia February takes some time away from her desk at Newspaper House in Cape Town.

I was covering the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters for the Daily Voice. When I went to meet the family, Mortimer, a tenant in the Pieters home for two years and the person accused of having killed her, always had this really concerned look on his face.

As a journalist — or just as person — one has this idea of what a criminal looks like, you know. But this guy was so clean-cut. Very, very decent. The concern on his face was so real. Whenever I went there, he would be out there with them, searching for Courtney.

He would do things like make tea for people and be really supportive. When they held a candlelight vigil, he was there holding his candle and was really, really emotional.

When Courtney’s mother came back from the morgue, after having to identify her daughter’s body, she was in tears. He ran up to her and held her, being a real pillar to the family. I was also hugging her and he came up and touched me on the shoulder. I am not usually comfortable with people touching me, but with him I felt so comfortable. I remember thinking: “If I was ever in this position, I would want someone like him around.”

To be honest, there were a few people in that community that I had suspected — and this is just taking people at face value — but never him. I was horrified. Her mom couldn’t even speak. This man was someone who lived in their house, someone they had trusted all their lives. I just couldn’t believe it. You know, I am usually the kind of person who doesn’t trust people too easily, but with him … Because of this man, I am now questioning every decision I’ve ever made. It just shows you can never tell. I can’t explain it … I would just never, ever have suspected him.

Saafia February, 36, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian.