'I can feel her smile and laugh' - murdered Matie student's friend

2017-06-01 22:43
Stacey Engel, with the blue Irene top, is supported by a friend during the minute of silence held for Hannah Cornelius. (Nadine Theron, Netwerk24)

Stacey Engel, with the blue Irene top, is supported by a friend during the minute of silence held for Hannah Cornelius. (Nadine Theron, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - She was a free spirit, adventurous and loved nature, Stacey Engel, a friend and also a resident of Irene women’s hostel at Stellenbosch University has said of Hannah Cornelius, 21.

"My heart literally stopped. I have never felt more scared in my life," Engel said of the moment on Saturday morning when she heard Cornelius’ body had been found. "She always put other people’s interests first. She didn’t deserve it," Engel told Netwerk24.  

Engel was supposed to have gone out with Cornelius on Friday evening and the last conversation she’d had with her, was that Engel couldn’t go out with her and would tell her why at a later stage.

"Now I can never tell her why," she said. She regrets not going out with Cornelius and her friends.  "Hannah was so excited that I was going to go with her and her friends, and now I will never have the chance."

Engel was one of about 100 people who took part in a silent march from the Irene residence, where Cornelius stayed, to a block of flats on the corner of Bird Street and Jan Cilliers Road in Stellenbosch where Hannah and a friend, Cheslin Marsh, were hijacked in the early hours of Saturday morning. 


They'd been sitting in her car. Nomzamo Ntombela, the SRC chairperson, sang religious songs such as Amazing Grace and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika as they slowly walked down Victoria Street.   

Engel started crying as a moment of silence was held for Cornelius in front of the block of flats. Verity Myburgh, a cleaner at the residence, also cried. "I always heard her coming with those little shoes and her room was always very tidy," she said as she tried to stem the tears with a tissue.  Cornelius had given her an ornament which had belonged to her grandmother, Myburgh said.

Cornelius' body was found on the farm Groenhof, outside Stellenbosch, on Saturday morning after she was stabbed about four times with a sharp object before she was raped. It is suspected that she bled to death.

"She just wanted to help animals and people," said Adriaan Jordaan, one of Cornelius' student friends, who saw her every day. He said once when they'd had just enough to buy each one a cigarette, Cornelius had rather given the money to a car guard.

The first thing Jordaan had done on Sunday when he had cellphone reception again after a weekend in Mozambique, was to listen to a perky WhatsApp voice message from Cornelius in which she said she missed him. It had been sent the afternoon before her death.

"I got so amped to see her again and three minutes later I found out what had happened," he said. Jordaan said he'd cried for a whole day after finding out about her murder. He’d collected shells for her in Mozambique.

'A flower' 

He said he no longer is agonising about her death. He’s made peace with it because he knows she isn’t gone and he can’t wait to see her again.

"I can feel her smile and laugh," he said. According to him, Cornelius didn’t believe in a traditional God, but was a spiritualist and liked meditating. She had a beautiful voice, but would stop singing if someone commented about it, he said. One of her favourite songs was Do I wanna know? by the Arctic Monkeys.

"She attracted people," said Jordaan. "She didn’t even have to say something - if she walked into a room, your mood settled and you just calmed down."

"She was a flower," said Riana Engelbrecht, the Irene residence head. “If she walked into a room, she lit it up. She stood out, whether it was because she was wearing an interesting skirt or red shoes.”

Engelbrecht said the Irene residents were "teary" and with the exams just around the corner, most of them who’d known Cornelius had decided to write supplementary exams.

Four men are being held in connection with Cornelius’ murder. 

Read more on:    hannah cornelius  |  cape town  |  crime

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