'Cruel, vengeful, vicious' - life sentences for Hannah Cornelius' murderers

The three men involved in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Stellenbosch University student Hannah Cornelius and the brutal attack on her friend Cheslin Marsh have received life sentences.

Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk heard their fate in the Western Cape High Court on Monday, less than a week after they were convicted on 10 charges, including kidnapping, rape and murder.

Their co-accused Nashville Julius was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping, as he had fled before his accomplices drove off with the students that night.

Witbooi and Parsons were sentenced to life imprisonment for Cornelius' murder, and life for her rape.

The pair received 25 years each for the attempted murder of Marsh, 15 years for four counts of robbery, and 10 years for the kidnapping of Marsh, Cornelius and Mimi October.

Van Niekerk received life sentences for Cornelius' rape and murder, 20 years for each robbery, 10 years for kidnapping Marsh and Cornelius, eight years for kidnapping October, and 20 years for the attempted murder of Marsh.

Julius was handed 15 years for two counts of robbery and seven years for the students' kidnapping. His sentences will run concurrently.

'Crude, cruel, vengeful'

The State had called for life imprisonment for Cornelius' rape and murder, as well as a life sentence for the attack on Marsh, owing to its severity.

None of the accused showed true remorse, Judge Rosheni Allie said. There could be no doubt that the four were lucid during their modus operandi.

It was appalling that they had kept Cornelius with them after dumping Marsh, as it showed they wanted to take full advantage of her, Allie said.

Her rape was intended to bring her to complete subjugation, "violating her privacy, dignity and humanity".

The manner in which they preyed on Cornelius made it the "crudest and cruellest form of violence".

They put her in the boot after gang raping her, and she must have resisted because she was in pain and anguish.

She was stabbed at Groenhof Farm and further attacked while she lay with her face on the ground. Throwing a rock on her was "vengeful and vicious, to cause death instantly".

None of the accused had proved circumstances extenuating enough for her to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence.

The Cornelius family had been torn apart, while Marsh had suffered extreme trauma and couldn't study further.

Judge Allie said she has considered all of the accused's roles, previous convictions and personal circumstances before coming to their individual sentences.

Many in the public gallery broke into cheers after the sentences were handed down.


READ: 4 men to be sentenced for Hannah Cornelius murder

Cornelius' body was found on the morning of May 27, 2017, outside Stellenbosch.

Ripped family apart

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.

Marsh was stoned and left for dead near Kraaifontein, while Cornelius was raped and later stabbed at Groenhof farm.

Her Citi Golf was used in two armed robberies before Witbooi and Parsons were apprehended after a highspeed chase.

During emotional pre-sentencing proceedings last week, Cornelius’ father Willem appealed to Judge Allie to impose a sentence on the accused "which will at the very least prevent other parents from going through what we have gone through".

His family had been ripped apart by what happened in the early hours of that winter morning.

His wife, Anna Cornelius, drowned in March. Her body was found along the shores of Scarborough, less than a year after Hannah's murder.

Over a year after her death, Hannah’s younger brother, who is autistic, still asks his father 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."

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
What do you think will happen if alleged war criminal Vladimir Putin enters South Africa for the BRICS summit in August?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Government will roll out the red carpet
72% - 2967 votes
There will be a court order compelling his arrest
4% - 153 votes
I doubt he’ll enter the country
24% - 987 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.