Hannah Cornelius murder accused implicates another suspect

2018-10-10 16:37
Matie student Hannah Cornelius. (Via Netwerk24)

Matie student Hannah Cornelius. (Via Netwerk24)

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A confession by one of the men accused of the rape and murder of Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius has implicated a fifth suspect in the crime, who has not yet been apprehended.

A video recording of the statement made by Vernon Witbooi was played in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, in which he detailed his version of what had happened on the night the woman was killed.

According to the written document admitted as evidence, Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk went to the Stellenbosch CBD after dark on Friday, May 26, 2017, after doing drugs to "see what we could get".

They met Nashville Julius on their way and he walked with them, Witbooi claimed.

They spotted Cornelius’ blue Golf, with two occupants, parked on Bird Street outside a tyre dealership. They walked past and around the block because Parsons allegedly said they should take the car and force the people into the boot.

When they returned, Parsons "dived in" and pushed the man – Cheslin Marsh – between the two front seats, and Julius apparently robbed him of his wallet and cellphone before leaving.

Marsh was then put into the boot of the car.

Witbooi claimed that Parsons had said he could find a buyer for the car in Kraaifontein and drove to the shack of another "Eben", who didn’t have any drugs for them to smoke.

Tik and dagga

Cornelius was with them at the time, and Marsh was still in the boot, he said.

Witbooi claimed he then saw that Parsons had a gun.

They went to the house of "Kaffirtjie", who gave them tik and dagga, which they smoked while driving in the car.

Parsons then allegedly took Marsh into some bushes, before returning alone about half an hour later.

Witbooi said he had stayed in the car with Cornelius, who did not say a word to him and stared straight ahead.

"I asked him where the man was and all he said was that he wanted to smoke and that he would tell me later. He later said he tied up the man and left him there because he wanted to get rid of them so that he could sell the car."

They drove to a different shack, where Parsons and Kaffirtjie entered. They later returned, before driving towards Stellenbosch. On the way, they smoked and pulled over in a bushy area where Parsons said they would "have sex with the girl".

Witbooi claimed he told Parsons that he hadn’t come for that, but for money.

'Took Cornelius into the dark'

Parsons, Van Niekerk and Kaffirtjie had taken her into the bushes while he sat in the car and smoked. They returned some time later, and he saw Cornelius had still been busy putting on her jacket.

"While we were driving, [Parsons] said I had missed out and that he had been first, [Van Niekerk] second and Kaffirtjie third when they had had sex with her."

Parsons later turned off at another place with vineyards, where the three took Cornelius "into the dark".

Witbooi said he smoked in the car and, when they returned, he had asked where "the girl" was.

"[Parsons] said he had tied her up and that the workers would find her tomorrow."

The sun had been starting to rise when they drove to drop off Kaffirtjie. The three then went back to Eben’s house and Parsons had gone inside, returning with him.

They had then driven around Kraaifontein and had seen a woman alongside the road.

They had stopped the car and Parsons had threatened the woman with the gun, forcing her into the stolen vehicle.

They took the woman’s bag, two cellphones and her bank card, forcing her to give them the PIN.

'He said that he would hurt my family'

Witbooi said he was instructed to draw the money, whereafter they had dropped the woman off.

They had given R1 000 to Eben.

They then went to drop their accomplices off at home, but Parsons had asked him to accompany him to Delft to collect a parcel. When he said he didn’t want to, an argument ensued, resulting in Parsons hitting him with the gun and his fists.

"A police van had driven past us and turned around, giving chase. I told [Parsons] to stop and he just said that, if I give in and tell, he would hurt my family," his statement, in Afrikaans, reads.

"At one stage, I grabbed the steering wheel and we came to a standstill. He scolded me and drove down a street, but we couldn’t go any further."

Witbooi said he then jumped out of the car and started running from the police.

"I went through the river and, when I got to the other side, saw I had nowhere to go. I sat down right there and this is where the police got me."

Midway through the recording, Witbooi bursts into tears.

Witbooi, Parsons, Julius and Van Niekerk face a string of charges, including murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and rape.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    hannah cornelius  |  cape town  |  narcotics  |  crime

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