Three men who gang-raped and murdered a 21-year-old student smirked in court as they were found guilty of the brutal killing.
The trio were convicted of murdering Hannah Cornelius, who was found dead in Stellenbosch, west of Cape Town, after being bundled into a car along with her friend.
Hannah’s pal Cheslin Marsh was beaten and left for dead in May last year before she was raped and her skull was crushed with a rock.
A trial at Western Cape Court heard the victim had pleaded with her kidnappers, saying they could sexually assault her but begging them to spare her life.
Eben Van Niekerk, 28, Geraldo Parsons , 27, and Vernon Witbooi, 33, were today found guilty of kidnap, robbery, rape and murder, while co-defendant Nashville Julius was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping.
Parsons grinned in court, while Wotbooi gave a thumbs up as he left after being found guilty.
During the horrific attack, Hannah was threatened with a screwdriver, while Chaslin was forced into the back of the VW Golf which had been stopped outside his home before they were kidnapped.
After being robbed, Chaslin, 22, was beaten with bricks and left for dead by Van Niekerk, Parsons and Witbooi.
Another man, referred to as “Kaffertjie”, gave the trio drugs before brutally raping Hannah and throwing rocks at her head.
“Kaffertjie” was never arrested.
Parsons told the court that the group believed they had killed Chaslin, and admitted being the first to rape Hannah.
He claimed the men planned to leave her on a farm, but she had struggled.
Cheslin did not regain consciousness until the day after the attack – which happened on May 27 last year.
According to Times Live , he told the trial: “She didn’t want to climb out of the boot. She was holding on to the car. She started panicking. Eben came up and stabbed her.”
He claimed to have pleaded with Wotbooi not to kill her, but she was hit twice over the head, with experts saying she died instantly.
After killing Hannah, the men used her car to go on a robbery spree, attacking at least three women before being caught in a police chase.
The court heard Hannah went through an “extremely painful” ordeal before she was killed.
Hannah suffered severe vaginal and cervical injuries in the prolonged attack.
The court heard how Parsons had plastic pearls embedded in his penis which would likely have made the sex attack more painful.
Heavy bruising on her arms show she had been held down and it is believed that probably several of the gang lifted the huge rock and dropped it on her head.
Following the verdict Toni Raphael, of the Hannah Cornelius Foundation – which was set up in her memory – said, News24 reports: “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.”
Tragically Hannah’s mum Anna was found dead in March this year, less than a year after her daughter was killed.
In a Facebook post titled ‘When Anna joined Hannah’, the Hannah Cornelius Foundation confirmed that Anna died on Sunday, March 25.
Her body was seen floating in shallow water by beachgoers in Scarborough, Cape Town.
It said: “Anna’s friends and family knew her as an amazing human being, full of light, abundant love and energy. Following her daughter, Hannah’s, death Anna founded the Hannah Cornelius Foundation in June 2017.”
At an earlier hearing, it emerged that Hannah’s parents were sent a letter from one of her alleged gang-rapists begging for their forgiveness.
Eben van Niekerk penned the letter but claims he was told to write in by Sergeant Steven Adams.
The letter was reportedly written after his arrest and before the four men first appeared in court.
It was translated from Afrikaans and had a number of errors. The top of the letter says: “This letter comes from Eben VNK” and it was also signed and initialled.