Prosecutors in the Western Cape High Court, SA Thursday asked for at least three life sentences to be imposed on assailants of Hannah Cornelius
The 21-year-old college student was raped by three of the four men who carjacked her
She was then driven to a farm where she was stabbed in the neck, and her head smashed with a large rock
Sentencing for Eben van Niekerk, Geraldo Parsons, Vernon Witbooi and Nashville Julius began Thursday morning, might conclude Monday
The state is calling for life sentences to be imposed on Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk, the three men convicted of murder and rape
The fourth accused man Nashville Julius prevented the victims from getting out of the car
He’s not implicated in murder and rape of Hannah but he did facilitate their kidnapping throughout the morning
He is expected to be spared a life time behind bars
Anna and Willem Cornelius at his daughter Hannah’s memorial service.
Society needs to be protected from people such as the men convicted of the brutal attack on Hannah Cornelius and Cheslin Marsh, the State insisted in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday where it asked for at least three life sentences to be imposed on the students’ assailants.
“The accused have no respect for human rights. They showed no mercy,” advocate Lenro Badenhorst said during sentencing proceedings against Eben van Niekerk, Geraldo Parsons, Vernon Witbooi and Nashville Julius.
He submitted to Judge Rosheni Allie that Van Niekerk, Parsons and Witbooi be handed life sentences for the murder and rape of Cornelius, as well as for the attempted murder of Cheslin Marsh due to the severity of the attack.
Judgement for Eben van Niekerk, Geraldo Parsons, Vernon Witbooi and Nashville Julius in the Hannah Cornelius rape and murder trial began in the Western Cape High Court Thursday morning, might conclude Monday
Badenhorst submitted that all four, except for Van Niekerk, should be sentenced to 15 years for the robbery. He said Van Niekerk should face 20 years as he was convicted for the same crime in 2013.
A “substantial period” behind bars would be fitting for the kidnapping as there was no prescribed minimum sentence for this charge.
The four are no strangers to serving time.
Witbooi had a 10-page rap sheet. He was first arrested in 1999 on a theft charge and had a range of convictions from burglary to robbery. He twice attempted to escape from prison and succeeded once.
He was released on parole in 2010 but violated the conditions and was rearrested to finish his sentence.
‘It Wasn’t Me,’ Geraldo Parsons [standing left], denied culpability in court, although he made a full confession admitting to his guilt in the rape and murder at the point of his arrest
Parsons was previously convicted for burglary, theft and possession of stolen goods. He was released on parole in 2015.
Van Niekerk was convicted along with his brother of robbing a person of R2 500 at knifepoint only five years ago.
Julius has five previous convictions ranging from theft to drug possession.
The four were convicted of accosting Cornelius and Marsh in her VW Citi Golf at the corner of Jan Celliers Road and Bird Street in Stellenbosch in the early hours of May 27, 2017.
Cornelius’ body was found on the morning of May 27, 2017 outside Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, South Africa. She was last seen alive with Marsh hours earlier, when the four men accosted the two students in her car in Bird Street in the town.
Her friend Cheslin Marsh who was also abducted by the four men was stoned and left for dead near Kraaifontein, while Cornelius was raped and later stabbed at Groenhof farm.
Her Volkswagen Citi Golf was used in two armed robberies before Witbooi and Parsons were arrested after a high-speed chase.
Victim: Hannah Cornelius was raped by three of the four men who carjacked her, before being driven to a farm where she was fatally stabbed in the neck
33-year-old Vernon Witbooi, [photo] allegedly was the mastermind behind the Hannah Cornelius murder, his co-defendants claimed
Cornelius was threatened with a screwdriver while Marsh was forced into the backseat of his friend’s car at knifepoint.
Cornelius was pushed between the two seats and robbed of her purse and cellphone, while Marsh’s clothes, cellphone, wallet, longboard, backpack and earrings were forcefully taken. After the robbery, Julius left the others at the scene.
Witbooi, Parsons and Van Niekerk then drove to the Helshoogte Pass, where Marsh was forced into the trunk.
The accused took the now 22-year-old to a field in Kraaifontein, where he was assaulted and stoned with bricks and left for dead.
Hanna’s friend and fellow student Cheslin Marsh was left for dead [photo, left], by the carjackers after they smashed his head with bricks
Cornelius was then driven to a bush near a paintball range, where she was raped before being driven to Groenhof farm where she was stabbed to death.
Hannah’s father, retired magistrate Willem Cornelius, took to the witness stand where he testified that he had been medically boarded well short of retirement age.
“Even without medical discharge, I would have resigned as I doubt that I could have retained the impartiality required of a judicial officer,” he said.
He described the effect of his daughter’s death on his family as “beyond devastating”.
“My wife, in addition to being my best friend, was the strongest and most competent person I’ve ever met. She became a shadow of herself, inconsolable, frantic, almost manic in everything she did, outwardly still in control but with no substance underneath that façade,” Cornelius testified.
My family died with my daughter ‘- Willem Cornelius, seen on the stand during the murder trial of his daughter, gave a heartbreaking testimony
“No one really knows what happened on that early morning when she decided to go swimming in an ice cold and stormy ocean. For myself I do not believe that she took her own life but I do believe that she did not have the physical or mental strength left to counter any difficulties that she may have experienced.”
His autistic son does not understand the concept of death, he explained.
“Every night when I put him to bed, he stops in front of a framed photograph of Hannah and asks when her holiday is over and when she is coming home. Not a day goes by that he does not ask me at least a dozen times about his mother or demands her return as well.
“I am the last person in the world with which he has a meaningful relationship, and when I die he will be alone and institutionalized. We never expected Hannah to be financially responsible for his care, but we knew that his sister would be there to love him, and to be loved in return.”
The state is calling for life sentences to be imposed on Vernon Witbooi, [left], Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk, the three men convicted of murder and rape
Nashville Julius who played a part in preventing the victims from getting out of the car and so helped the others get away, is not implicated in murder and rape of Hannah but he did facilitate their kidnapping throughout the morning. He is expected to be spared life behind bars
He asked Judge Allie for a sentence that will at the very least prevent other parents from going through what he and his loved ones have been through.
Marsh’s mother, Marilyn was emotional when she recounted how her son had looked when she was called to the hospital after the attack.
“I asked myself ‘What kind of people would do something like this? He didn’t do anything to them,” she said, weeping.
Parsons held his head in his hands before crying too.
Sentencing is expected on Monday.