'It's not a happy day for anybody' – Hannah Cornelius Foundation after guilty verdict

2018-11-07 18:59
Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk, and Nashwill Julies in court on October 17. (Adrian de Kock, Netwerk24)

Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk, and Nashwill Julies in court on October 17. (Adrian de Kock, Netwerk24)

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There is no joy in the guilty verdict handed to the four men accused of the vicious attack on Hannah Cornelius and Cheslin Marsh, representatives of a foundation founded in the young student's honour have said.

Judge Rosheni Allie convicted Eben Van Niekerk, Geraldo Parsons and Vernon Witbooi of Cornelius' kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. Nashville Julius was convicted of robbery and kidnapping.

"It's not a happy day for anybody," Toni Raphael of the Hannah Cornelius Foundation said on the court steps shortly after the judgment.

"We're not happy there are so many lives that have been destroyed on their side, on our side… There's no joy in that. But we're very grateful that the law has taken its course and has held people accountable – that's how it must be."

READ: Slain student Hannah Cornelius’ cousin helps friend get hearing aid

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

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 high-speed chase.

A full gallery watched proceedings unfold. Members of the foundation wore T-shirts which bore a photograph of Cornelius' face.

Raphael said they did not "want to focus on spending a lifetime hating", but would prefer to "get on with what we need to do – try and break the cycle of violence".

The foundation was founded after the student's death and works with youth at risk to empower them, Raphael explained.

The Hannah Cornelius Centre is expected to be opened in Ocean View later this month.

Raphael has been in contact with the Cornelius family, but said she would prefer not to speak on their behalf.

"But I'm sure the guilty conviction will be satisfying at some level."

Sentencing proceedings are expected to continue on Thursday. The State intends to call Cornelius' father, retired Simon's Town magistrate Willem Cornelius, an aunt, and Marsh's mother to testify in aggravation of sentence.

The four accused are expected to testify in mitigation.

Read more on:    hannah cornelius foundation  |  hannah cornelius  |  courts

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