DNA confirms unknown suspect in Hannah Cornelius rape, murder

The accused in the Hannah Cornelius murder trial. (Adrian de Kock)
The accused in the Hannah Cornelius murder trial. (Adrian de Kock)

DNA found on used condoms at the site where Hannah Cornelius was raped before she was murdered, indicated that another suspect was involved in the attack on the Stellenbosch student, the investigating officer testified in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

Sergeant Marlon Appollis said the DNA of an unknown male was found near the Bottelary Sports Club where Cornelius was raped in the early hours of May 27, 2017. The suspect is unknown to the State.

In his confession, one of the accused, Vernon Witbooi, said that after hijacking Cornelius' blue City Golf in Bird Street last year, they drove to Kraaifontein and went to the house of one "Kaffirtjie", who gave them tik and dagga, which they smoked while driving in the car.

Witbooi claimed that - after the attack on Cornelius' friend Cheslin Marsh - he, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and "Kaffirtjie" had driven towards Stellenbosch.

On the way, they smoked and pulled over in a bushy area where Parsons said they would "have sex with the girl".

He said Parsons, Van Niekerk and "Kaffirtjie" took her into the bushes while he sat in the car and smoked.

They returned some time later and while driving, Parsons told Witbooi that he had "missed out" and that he had been first, Van Niekerk second and "Kaffirtjie" third "when they had had sex with her".

The three had, according to Witbooi, stopped at a spot where there were vineyards and took Cornelius "into the dark".

The men, along with Nashville Julius, allegedly accosted Cornelius and Marsh in the early hours of that morning.

A screwdriver was used to threaten Cornelius and Marsh was forced into the back seat of his friend's car at knife point.

She had been raped and stabbed to death.

Marsh was robbed of his cellphone and clothes and forced into the car's boot. Bricks were later used to assault him and he was left for dead.

According to Appollis, at the time of Witbooi's arrest, he had still been wearing Marsh's body warmer.

Witbooi and Parsons had been arrested the same day following a high-speed car chase that ended at Dwars-in-die-Weg farm.

Appollis, who was also the investigating officer in the Henri van Breda triple murder case, said he had spoken to Witbooi while he was in the back of a police van, after he had been apprehended.

He recalled that Witbooi wanted to tell his version of event from the start.

Witbooi and Parsons had been taken for a medical examination, where the former was caught trying to hide a cellphone, lighter, three rings and R100, Appollis testified.

Witbooi also had a page from a French book because - if he recalled correctly - Cornelius had been studying French, Appollis said.

The elastic part of a condom, presumed to have broken, was also found in Witbooi's possession, he told Judge Rosheni Allie.

Appollis, a seasoned detective who has 12 years of experience, also pointed out the accused in CCTV footage retrieved from Battery Centre in Stellenbosch that night.

"I know the accused. I have dealt with them before," he testified.

The trial continues on Monday.

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