Public gallery erupts into cheers as gang of robbers who raped and killed South African student Hannah Cornelius are jailed for life with the judge slamming the men for ‘violating her dignity and humanity’
Hannah Cornelius, 21, was gang- raped by her abductors before she was stabbed in the neck
Three men, Vernon Witbooi, 33, Geraldo Parsons, 27, and Eben van Niekerk, 28, were found guilty of raping and murdering the student in May 2017
Judge Rosheni Allie sentenced the trio to life in prison at a hearing on Monday
A fourth man Nashville Julius, 29, was found guilty of kidnapping and robbing her and a friend
He was sentenced to 15 years for robbery and seven years for kidnapping
The public gallery cheered and chanted ‘Justice!’ as the four were led away
Vernon Witbooi, [left], Geraldo Parsons,[second left] and Eben van Niekerk received life sentences for murder while Nashville Julius [right], will spend 15 years behind bars for his part in the kidnap and robbery
The thugs who gang-raped and murdered South African student Hannah Cornelius have been jailed for life – sparking cheers in the court’s public gallery.
Geraldo Parsons, 27, Vernon Witbooi, 33, and Eben van Niekerk, 28, were found guilty of Hannah’s rape and murder, as well as the kidnap, robbery and attempted murder of her friend Cheslin Marsh last week.
All three career criminals were sentenced to two life terms each for Hannah’s rape and murder at Western Cape High Court on Monday. Witbooi and Parsons were also both handed 25 years for attempted murder, 15 years each for four counts of robbery and 10 years for kidnapping.
Van Niekerk was also sentenced to 20 years for attempted murder, 20 years for robbery, 10 years for kidnapping Hannah and Cheslin, eight years for kidnapping another woman, Mimi October.
A fourth man, Nashville Julius, 29, was sentenced to 15 years for two counts of robbery and seven years for kidnapping. His sentence will run concurrently.
Judge Rosheni Allie delivered a scathing appraisal of the men on Monday, telling the court that none of them had shown ‘true remorse’ for their crimes, News 24 reports.
As she delivered their sentences, a large crowd of supporters in the public gallery erupted into cheers. They applauded, taunted the killers and chanted ‘Justice!’ as they were hauled back into their holding cells following the hearing.
Witbooi stared and shook his head as they shouted ‘gangsters’ and ‘viva high court’ at the men in the dock, Times Live reports.
Many of the people in the public gallery were from organisations set up after the violent deaths of women and children in Cape Town.
Hannah, 21, was raped, killed and her body was dumped in the middle of a road after she and her friend Cheslin, 22, were carjacked in Stellenbosch after a night out with friends on May 27 last year.
Tragically, both her mother and grandmother died in the 10 months following her murder.
Cheslin was battered with bricks and left for dead by the attackers. He survived the brutal assault, which left him deaf in one ear.
‘I’m just relieved that justice has been served. I can’t describe how I feel – I am just happy,’ he told the website.
Cheslin also he finally met Hannah’s family during sentencing proceedings last week.
‘Hannah’s father told me: ‘Don’t worry Cheslin. Everything will be okay. You will study next year again. This won’t hold you back.”’
Judge Allie condemned the men for keeping Hannah with them after leaving Cheslin behind because it showed they wanted ‘to take full advantage of her.’
She said the brutal rape violated Hannah’s ‘privacy, dignity and humanity’ and the manner in which they preyed on the young student was the ‘crudest and cruellest form of violence.’
Hannah, 21, seen [left] with her mother, was raped repeatedly and then killed after she and her friend Cheslin, 22, were carjacked in Stellenbosch after a night out with friends in May last year
Judge Allie said the men had put her into her vehicle’s boot after raping her and she must have resisted because she was in pain.
She added that throwing a rock on her to kill her was ‘vengeful and vicious.’
The judge said she had weighed all of the convicted men’s roles in the attack, their previous convictions and their personal circumstances.
She said none of their circumstances were extenuating enough to warrant deviating from the prescribed minimum sentence.
Under South African law, prisoners serving life sentences must be given parole hearings after 25 years.
Parole is often granted to prisoners after the minimum sentence for the lesser crime has been served, which for murders, rapes and robberies is after serving 25, 15 and 10 years respectively.
The judge said the Cornelius family has been torn apart, while Cheslin suffered extreme trauma and wasn’t able to continue his studies.
They took her to an isolated spot where they raped her before stabbing her in the neck and dropping a rock on her head.
They carried on their rampage, a video from TimesLIVE revealed and went on to attack another two women.
A combination of CCTV footage and police interviews titled ’11 Hours, 4 Victims, 1 Hell Ride’ shows how the men held a screwdriver to Hannah’s breast as they commandeered her vehicle at about 3.30am.
Alledged mastermind Geraldo Parsons [second left], covers his face after being found guilty of kidnapping, gang-raping and murdering a university student
Addressing the court where he faced his daughter’s killers, Mr Cornelius said his ‘family died with Hannah’.
But he added: ‘I do not believe that she committed suicide… but what I do believe is that she did not have the physical or mental strength left to counter any difficulties that she may have experienced.’
In his heartbreaking appearance in court, Mr Cornelius said the effect of his daughter’s death on the family was ‘beyond devastating’.
More than a year after her death, he said Hannah’s younger brother, who is autistic, still asks him when his sister is coming home from holiday.
‘Me and my son are not a family – we are the survivors who live in the ruins of what once was,’ Mr Cornelius said.
A colleague with the Hannah Cornelius Foundation – set up in Hannah’s name – said Mrs Cornelius ‘had been quite ill’.
Foundation CEO Lily Reed said at the time: ‘She had flu and a chest throat infection the whole week before. I think that added to it.’
Rescuers said they expected she had drowned. Once a magistrate, Mr Cornelius told the court he did not believe he had the impartiality to continue in the role after what had happened to his daughter.
Earlier, her aunt, Professor Eleanor Cornelius slammed the attackers for smiling throughout the case ‘like they had only gotten up to mischief’.
Cheslin Marsh’s mother also took the stand and spoke directly to the men in the dock.
Witbooi, whom the judge revealed has a violent criminal record going back 19 years, was also filmed giving a camera a ‘thumbs up’ as he left Western Cape Court.
The court heard that Parsons had a tattoo on his body saying ‘f**k the cops’ and another saying ‘hungry for money, thirsty for blood’.
Another shows a baboon with a woman’s face with its legs open, the court was told, according to News24.
Parsons had previously told the court during the trial that the quartet had only intended on stealing Ms Cornelius’ car and that the incident spiralled after they saw the two students still inside.
He said the desperate student had bargained with them, agreeing to let the men sexually assault her – as long as they let her live.
However, several of the men brutally raped her, after which they threw her into the boot of her own car, and drove her to a secluded spot where they murdered her.
Three men found guilty of murdering South African student
Kidnap: CCTV footage captured the moment when four men carjacked the two students Cornelius and Marsh in May last year
CCTV footage released during the trial shows how the incident began in the early hours of May 27, 2017.
Four men are seen surrounded Ms Cornelius’ VW Golf, parked outside the block of flats where Mr Marsh lived.
Mr Marsh says they had ended up chatting in the car, and were interrupted by a man putting a screwdriver to Ms Cornelius’ chest through the open window.
They were forced out of the car, after which Mr Marsh was robbed of cash and his phone and locked in the car boot.
Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk made Marsh [photo] put his head on a rock then battered his skull with house bricks until they thought he was dead
The four men forced Ms Cornelius to get back into the car with them, after which they drove to a drug dealer’s home to smoke crystal meth, before they drove out of Stellenbosch and pulled over near a local vineyard.
They reportedly dragged Mr Marsh out of the boot and made him lay his head on a rock on the ground before battering his skull with bricks until they thought he was dead.
Hannah’s aunt, Professor Eleanor Cornelius seen [left with her dad Willem Cornelius] at Hannah’s funeral, slammed the suspects’ cavalier attitude, smiling throughout the case ‘like they had only gotten up to mischief’
Convicted killers Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk are seen smiling during one of their court appearances
Marsh recovered consciousness the following day, and staggered to a nearby home suffering severe head injuries and a broken arm to raise the alarm about Ms Cornelius.
Unknown to him her body had been found just hours earlier, dumped by the roadside.
After the rape and murder of Ms Cornelius, the gang went on a crime spree in the hijacked car, robbing at least three women before the stolen car was spotted and a high speed police chase began.
Three were arrested after dumping the car and fleeing and the fourth was arrested later.