Hannah Cornelius murder: Accused's involvement minimal, 137 secs to be exact, court hears

2018-10-30 15:57
The Hannah Cornelius murder trial continues in the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The Hannah Cornelius murder trial continues in the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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A stolen cellphone and R40 cash could earn one of the men accused of the robbery and kidnapping of Hannah Cornelius and Cheslin Mars a lengthy sentence, because he appeared to, "like a predator, capitalise on the actions of his co-accused", the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

Nashville Julius faces charges of aggravated robbery and kidnapping for his role in the murder and attempted murder of the two Stellenbosch students in 2016.

He was one of the four men who had been walking the streets in the early hours of that morning, allegedly looking for people to rob.

His involvement in the crime was minimal - 137 seconds to be exact - his advocate Scanlyn Collins pointed out during closing arguments, relying on CCTV footage to confirm this.

SEE: 'Don't be angry with me, please' – accused in letter to Hannah Cornelius' parents

His actions had not been aggravated, as he had not been armed, and had robbed Marsh of his Hisense cellphone and the cash in his wallet. Collins asked that his client only be convicted of common robbery.

But Judge Rosheni Allie didn’t agree, saying Julius appeared to have capitalised, like a predator, on the actions of co-accused Vernon Witbooi and Geraldo Parsons, after their victims had been forced into submission.

Julius had been inside Cornelius’ blue Citi Golf in the early hours of that morning in May 2017, but had taken Marsh’s possessions and fled.

Collins said his client had not been party to the kidnapping.

But Allie said Julius had played a role which set in motion a series of events.

She pointed out that all the exits of the car had been blocked by each of the accused. "There was no escape, the human body obstructed [access to] a door," Allie pointed out, describing the role Julius had played.

CCTV footage

Prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst said he found it implausible that Julius had not been aware of his co-accused’s intentions.

He, too, referred to the CCTV footage, which he said showed Julius get out of the car and appear to look for the car keys, which Parsons testified he had been unable to find inside the VW Golf.

After walking around the outside of the vehicle, Julius leaves via a nearby alleyway and isn’t seen again.

Badenhorst argued that, if Julius had disassociated himself from the kidnapping, he would not have been looking for the keys.

"Only when he thought they weren't going to get it, did he leave," the prosecutor insisted.

According to the State, four people accosted Cornelius and Marsh while they sat and spoke in her car in the early hours of May 27, 2017.

A screwdriver was used to threaten Cornelius, while Marsh was forced into the back seat of his friend's car at knifepoint, before being bundled into the boot.

Marsh was stoned and left for dead in Kraaifontein. Cornelius was later raped and stabbed at Groenhof Farm.

READ: Hannah Cornelius stabbed because she refused to get out of her car boot - accused

In a confession admitted into evidence, Witbooi painted Parsons as the mastermind.

But Parsons, the only accused who took to the witness stand, claimed it was Witbooi who had called the shots.

Judgment expected next week

Advocate Dudley Johnson, for Eben van Niekerk, during his closing arguments on Tuesday said his client had not been present when Marsh was attacked. He had ostensibly been keeping an eye on Cornelius in the car.

But Allie said he had been aware of what would have transpired as they had, according to the evidence, discussed that they needed to "get rid of" him.

Johnson also argued that Van Niekerk had not been linked to the rape through any forensic evidence, despite Parsons’ testimony that he, Witbooi, Van Niekerk and a man unknown to the State had taken turns to rape Cornelius.

Allie, however, said courts do make rape convictions without DNA evidence.

Parsons alleged in his testimony that Van Niekerk had stabbed Cornelius in the neck after she refused to get out of the boot at Groenhof farm.

Johnson, during cross-examination, had not contested this, but on Tuesday said Parsons could not be considered a honest and reliable witness.

Allie said Parsons’ evidence had not been disputed, and that the stabbing was one of several fatal wounds Cornelius had suffered in Van Niekerk’s presence.

Parsons has admitted guilt on all the charges, despite pleading not guilty at the start of the trial.

Judgment is expected to be handed down on November 7.

Read more on:    hannah cornelius  |  cape town  |  crime

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