A university student who was kidnapped, gang-raped and murdered in South Africa, may have had her underwear taken as a sick trophy, jurors heard today.
Last week one of the attackers claimed Hannah Cornelius, 21, ‘did not scream or fight when they raped her,’ after she agreed to ‘have sex with them’ in a desperate bid for survival.
But today prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst said Ms Cornelius may have been killed after she fought back when she realised they wanted to rape her again, according to News 24 reporter Tammy Peterson.
Murdered: Hannah Cornelius, 21, was raped and murdered in Stellenbosch, South Africa, after she and her friend were carjacked by four men in May, last year
Confession: Geraldo Parsons, 27, told a court in Western Cape, South Africa, that Hannah Cornelius, 21, did not shout or cry while she was being brutally raped by him and his friends before they murdered her
Ms Peterson reported that the lawyer suggested ‘this could be why pants was halfway down and she had not been wearing underwear when her body was found.
‘He argues her attackers could have kept her underwear as trophies.’
Geraldo Parsons, 27, Vernon Witbooi, 33, Nashville Julius, 29, and Eben van Niekerk, 28 allegedly robbed and assaulted Mr Marsh and left him for dead, before brutally raping and murdering Ms Cornelius.
She was carjacked by four men while dropping off fellow student Cheslin Marsh, 22, at his home in Stellenbosch, west of Cape Town, after a night out.
Parsons told Western Cape Court last week, that Ms Cornelius had bargained with them in a desperate bid for survival, agreeing that they could have sex with her – as long as they did not hurt her and let her go afterwards.
Making a full confession to the charges of rape, murder, kidnap and robbery, Parsons broke down in tears as he claimed he had not wanted to rape Ms Cornelius as he had a girlfriend and young children, but that he ‘did it anyway’.
He claimed Ms Cornelius ‘did not scream or fight when they raped her.’
Parsons was asked to explain the scratches and abrasions which had been found on his face upon his arrest, which he could not.
Ms Petersen tweeted from the court room that Parsons had also been questioned about ‘plastic pearls’ in his penis – a type of body modification.
Parsons claimed the genital decorations would be ‘his privacy’, but later bizarrely added it ‘was part of his Jewish religion’, according to Ms Petersen.
Parsons told the court that the quartet had only intended to steal Ms Cornelius’ car after spotting it outside Mr Marsh’s block of flats and that the incident spiralled after they saw the two students still inside.
Confession: Parsons, 27, second from left, broke down in tears on Wednesday, as he admitted to raping and murdering Ms Cornelius, implicating his co-accused Vernon Witbooi, 33, Nashville Julius, 29, and Eben van Niekerk, 28
Heartbreaking: Hannah Cornelius allegedly pleaded with her kidnappers to free her after they had raped her outside Stellenbosch near Cape Town
Four men Vernon Witbooi, 33, Geraldo Parsons, 27, Nashville Julius, 29, and Eben van Niekerk, 28, face a string of charges including murder, kidnap, robbery and rape
‘Don’t be angry with me please’: Letter from accused rapist to parents of victim
This letter was written by Eben van Niekerk after his arrest and was translated from Afrikaans.
‘This letter comes from Eben VNK.
‘Herewith I write this letter to Henna’s mom and dad. I am sorry for what I did and I ask if they can forgive me for what I have done…
‘The girl was like a friend to me but the other accused, I was also scared of them and it wasn’t nice to see.
‘I was also scared of them. Don’t be angry at me please.’
‘Vernon said Hannah said we can have sex with her but then we must leave her after that,’ Parsons said according to Times Live, describing the look of terror in Ms Cornelius’ eyes.
He described how he was the first to rape Ms Cornelius, before Witbooi and then van Niekerk.
He claims he told Witbooi to release Ms Cornelius afterwards, but instead, the group threw the 21-year-old in the boot of her own car, and drove to a nearby vineyard.
‘She didn’t want to climb out of the boot. She was holding on to the car. She started panicking. Eben came up and stabbed her. I let her go as the blood started to spill.’
‘Then I saw Vernon arrive with a rock. I told Vernon “don’t kill her, we’ve already killed Cheslin, let’s leave her”. But Vernon threw the rock on Hannah’s head.’
Last week, state pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams told the court that the violence against her skull was so brutal it would have killed her instantly.
‘The skull is made of very strong bones. It is not easy for a skull to break or crack, unless a lot of power is used to break the skull,’ state pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams told Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
Describing the sexual assault, Dr Abrahams told the court it ‘would have been a very painful experience to the person,’ according to News24.
Both the trauma to the head and the stab-wound in Ms Cornelius’ neck were fatal.
However Dr Abrahams concluded that the blunt violence which cracked her skull is the most likely cause of death.
Prosecutors claim the four men surrounded Ms Cornelius’ VW Golf, put a screwdriver to her chest through the open window and put a knife to the back of Mr Marsh and threatened to kill him.
Shocking: Ms Cornelius was dragged from her car and raped by at least three of the men, before they stabbed her in the neck and crushed her skull with a large rock
Mr Marsh was robbed of cash and his phone and locked in the car boot and then the four men drove to a drug dealer’s home to buy drugs and smoked crystal meth.
Ms Cornelius was ordered into the back seat 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.
Mr 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 earlier several miles away dumped by the roadside and a huge police search was already underway for him and the gang.
Ms Cornelius, the daughter of a local magistrate Willem Cornelius and his late lawyer wife Anna, was described as a ‘brilliant student’.
She was in her second year at Stellenbosch University studying for a BA in Humanities when she was gang raped and murdered.
Distraught fellow student Mr Marsh broke down in tears repeatedly as he told how they were hijacked and he was locked in the boot while Hannah was kept inside the car.
He said they had been out for a few drinks and to a dance and said he was going to use his skateboard to get home but Hannah insisted on driving him in case he was robbed.
Three men made Mr Marsh (pictured after) put his head on a rock then battered his skull with house bricks until they thought he was dead
The witness who found Marsh said that Marsh was ‘barefoot and covered in blood, completely disorientated and didn’t know where he was’
Mr Marsh said when they pulled up the gang pounced threatening to stab Hannah to death with a sharpened screwdriver and him to death with a knife placed at his back.
He described how they were driven to a suburb of Cape Town called Kraaifontein, some 11 miles from where they were hijacked in Stellenbosch and he was pulled from the car boot.
He said: ‘I lay down on the ground as they told me and put my head on a rock. I closed my eyes and I prayed. The two men were standing over me with bricks in their hands.
‘I lost consciousness and when I woke I was in horrible pain, everywhere pain. When I last heard Hannah talking her voice was very soft and I could tell she was scared’.
He managed to stagger to a nearby house covered in blood and raise the alarm.
Mr Marsh was so traumatised he never returned to his studies and is now deaf in one ear as a result of his injuries and vivid scars could be seen on his head as he gave evidence.
After the rape and murder of Ms Cornelius, the gang went on a robbery 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.