Inconsolable friend unable to testify further as he recounts hell ride that led to Hannah Cornelius’ murder

2018-10-10 18:47
Cheslin Marsh. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cheslin Marsh. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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The friend who was with Hannah Cornelius the night she was raped and murdered wept inconsolably in the Western Cape High Court, bringing proceedings to a halt as he attempted to recount details of that fateful night.

Cheslin Marsh, 22, is understood to have suffered severe head and body injuries after he was left for dead that night.

On Wednesday, he was unable to speak about the severe assault he endured, allegedly at the hands of the men seated only metres from him in the dock.

Marsh, the State's first witness, recalled the events of May 26, 2017, when he, Cornelius and other friends had had drinks at popular hangouts in the student town.

READ: Hannah Cornelius murder accused implicates another suspect

After midnight, he walked her home to the Irene Ladies’ Residence, he testified, and she insisted that she should drive him home because it was late.

He wanted to ride his longboard home but Cornelius would not take no for an answer and said she would drive behind him to his flat.

"I said that would be ridiculous, so I agreed to take the lift with her," he testified.

They drove to his flat and were chatting outside his block in Jan Celliers Street.

"I was about to get out of the car and opened the door when I saw a hand come through her half-open window, holding a screwdriver," he said.

The sharp edge was pointed at Cornelius' chest and he closed his door and grabbed at the person's hand. He recalled that he was scared.

Someone then opened his door and held a knife to his back, telling him to "sit still or you will die".

He was ordered to move to the back seat, while two others got in and sat on either side of him.

Two people got into the front two seats of the car and forced Cornelius between the two seats.

The man on his right shook him down and took his cellphone and wallet, containing between R40 and R60, before handing it back to him.

After looking for the car keys and after the screwdriver-wielding man in the driver's seat found it on the floor, Cornelius asked them what they were going to do.

"The driver answered. He said they just wanted to go home, then they would give the car back."

After driving off, the vehicle pulled over. He was instructed to walk to the back of the car and told to get into the boot, Marsh said.

His shoes were taken before they continued to drive.

"I couldn't see the people in the car. I could hear them speaking, but not clearly," he said.

"I felt helpless… I know we drove for a long time."

During the ride, he heard the hijackers say they wanted to go to a drug dealer, Marsh said.

The car came to a stop and he saw two people when the boot was opened.

They took his jacket which contained his wallet and removed his earrings from his ears before closing the boot again.

"We stood there for a few minutes and heard doors open and close. Then we started to drive. I heard something that sounded like a lighter and a whistling sound and assumed they were doing tik in the car," Marsh said.

The men also demanded his PIN number and after stopping the car again, someone banged on the boot and asked why he had given the wrong code. He told them they were using the wrong card.

Back on the road, he heard them speaking about buying "halwes" or halves.

The car then stopped again and he heard the occupants speaking about going to smoke. Someone said they couldn't leave Cornelius alone in the car.

"They called her "die kind" (the child)," Marsh told the court.

"They came back later. Nobody said anything until Hannah asked what they were going to do now when they drove. They said they're going to smoke and give back the car.

"I could hear she was very scared. Her voice was soft."

He recounted that he felt them driving on a gravel road before the car stopped.

It is understood that this is the scene where Marsh was told to get out of the boot and taken to a bushy area where the assault took place.

The student, however, started to cry inconsolably, clutching a piece of tissue as he wept.

Judge Rosheni Allie adjourned because Marsh was barely able to speak.

Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Nashville Julius and Eben van Niekerk face a string of charges, including murder, kidnapping, robbery and rape.

Cornelius' body was found on the morning of May 27, 2017 on the side of a road, near a wine farm outside Stellenbosch.

Marsh described Cornelius as a good-hearted and helpful person who always put others' interests before her own.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Read more on:    hannah cornelius  |  cape town  |  crime

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