'There's a person lying there' - tragic discovery of Hannah Cornelius

2018-10-16 14:14
The four accused in trial for rape and murder of Hannah Cornelius, and attack on Cheslin Marsh (Jenni Evans, News24)

The four accused in trial for rape and murder of Hannah Cornelius, and attack on Cheslin Marsh (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Two borehole pump technicians, who found the body of murdered Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius, have described what they saw on the morning of the gruesome discovery.

Pump technician Flippie Booysen testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday that he and Conrad Matthee had removed piping to repair a pump on a farm in Stellenbosch on Friday, May 26, 2017 - the morning before Hannah Cornelius and a friend were kidnapped.

When they were finished, Matthee placed a large rock over the hole to ensure nothing fell into it overnight.

When Booysen and Matthee drove their bakkie up the farm road to the area the next morning to finish the job, Flippie noticed that the rock had been removed.

Booysen testified that the rock had been too heavy for him to pick up the night before, and that Matthee had moved it over the hole initially.

A large rock was placed as evidence on a desk in the court on Tuesday and testimony by another witness is expected to elaborate on whether that was the rock they had used to cover the hole.

As they got closer, Booysen said he noticed something else.

Read: Friend of slain Hannah Cornelius expected to continue testimony about their ordeal

'It looks like a doll'

"I said Conrad, there is a white bag," said Booysen, "He said 'no', but I said 'Conrad, there's a person lying there'. He said 'no'. He said 'it looks like a doll'."

Matthee told the court that, as they drove up, they also saw that, not only was the rock moved from the borehole, but there were also rags and something like a sponge scattered on the scene.

While he unloaded the bakkie to finish the job on the borehole, Booysen went to remove the items scattered around.

Booysen said that he saw that something was not right and called Booysen over.

The two found Cornelius lying on the ground with her pants pulled halfway down.

They drove to fetch their foreman, and the police were summoned.

Time of death

State pathologist Deidre Abrahams was next to testify, saying that Cornelius may have died at 06:30 or 08:30 on May 27.

She had taken into account variables that pathologists add to their calculation when arriving at an estimated time of death. This could include whether there had been overnight drizzle at the site, and the deceased's body weight. 

Abrahams said that, based on Cornelius' genital injuries, it appeared she had not consented to sex.

Judge Rosheni Allie cautioned that reporting on this aspect of the testimony should be done with sensitivity.

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

Read more: Stellenbosch cop recounts dramatic chase that led to arrest of Hannah Cornelius murder suspect

The men allegedly accosted Cornelius and her friend Cheslin Marsh in her VW Citi Golf at the corner of Jan Celliers and Bird streets in the early hours of May 27, 2017.

Cornelius was threatened with a screwdriver, while Marsh was forced into the back seat of his friend's car at knifepoint.

Marsh was assaulted and left for dead earlier in the evening, while Cornelius was later raped and stabbed.

The trial continues.

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

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