Hannah Cornelius murder accused to go on trial after plea deal falls through

Hannah Cornelius. (Netwerk24)
Hannah Cornelius. (Netwerk24)

Four men accused of the murder, kidnapping and rape of a Stellenbosch University student, and the attempted murder of another, are to be tried next month after plea and sentencing negotiations with one of them fell through, the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday.

Vernon Witbooi, Eben van Niekerk, Nashwill Julies, and Geraldo Parsons have been indicted for the brutal attack on Hannah Cornelius and her close friend Cheslin Marsh in May, last year.

Prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst informed Judge Mushtak Parker that attempts to conclude a plea and sentencing agreement with Witbooi had fallen through.

READ: Parents of murdered Stellenbosch student set up trust to help those in similar situation

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

She was last seen alive hours earlier, with Marsh, when four men approached her car in Bird Street, Stellenbosch.

Her Citi Golf is believed to have been used in an armed robbery in Northpine, between Brackenfell and Kraaifontein, on the day of her murder, and is also understood to have been used during the commission in Kuils River.

Cornelius' father is retired Simon's Town magistrate Willem Cornelius.

Her mother, Anna Cornelius, 56, was found dead in March along the shores of Scarborough, less than a year after Hannah's murder.

READ MORE: Mother of slain Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius found dead

Police had opened an inquest docket into her death.

Badenhorst requested that Cornelius' case be prioritised as Marsh would be out of the country from the end of June.

The matter was postponed to Wednesday for a new advocate to come on record for Van Niekerk. His current legal representative would not be available for the trial.

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