A 21-year-old student was abducted, gang-raped and murdered after offering to give a friend a ride home. The incident occurred in the Stellenbosch area, near Cape Town, South Africa.
Concerned that her 22-year-old pal Cheslin Marsh would be skateboarding back home, Hannah Cornelius offered to drive him back. When the kind girl pulled up beside him, four men hijacked the car and attacked both Cornelius and Marsh.
The four men – Vernon Witbooi, 33, Geraldo Parsons, 27, Nashville Julius, 29, and Eben Van Nieberk, 28 – drove a screwdriver into Hannah’s chest through the open window of her car before threatening Marsh with a knife, demanding, “Sit still or she dies”.
Marsh was robbed of cash and his phone before he was locked in the trunk of Hannah’s car – a Volkswagen Golf which her grandmother had gifted her for her birthday.
The four men allegedly drove the vehicle to a drug dealers home to buy drugs and smoked crystal meth, before driving out of town. The men then pulled Marsh out of the car into some nearby bushes. Placing Marsh’s head on a rock, the men allegedly battered his skull with house bricks, only leaving his blood-soaked body when they thought he was dead.
Marsh, however, survived the horror attack and staggered to a nearby home for help when he regained consciousness. It was only then that Marsh, who suffered severe head injuries, discovered that the police had already found the dead body of Hannah several miles away.
Distraught, Marsh told the court later: “I lay down on the ground as they told me and put my head on a rock. I closed my eyes and I prayed. The two men were standing over me with bricks in their hands. I lost consciousness and when I woke I was in horrible pain, everywhere pain. When I last heard Hannah talking her voice was very soft and I could tell she was scared”.
The court heard that after Marsh had been taken care of, the men allegedly dragged Hannah into the bushes at a vineyard where three of the men gang-raped her. The men then crushed the victim’s skull with a large rock, stabbed her in the neck and left her for dead.
The drug-addled men then went on a robbery spree in Hannah’s car, robbing three women before they were caught by the police.
All four men now face murder, kidnap, robbery and rape charges.
Hannah’s father, magistrate Willem Cornelius, suffered another loss in the wake of his loving daughter’s untimely death, when his wife – 56-year-old lawyer Anna Cornelius – drowned 10 months after Hannah’s murder.
Marsh was left so traumatised by the horror attack that he never returned to his studies. Besides having become deaf in one ear as a result of his injuries, Marsh could also be seen with vivid scars on his head as he gave evidence in court.
One of the men who is accused of murder told the court that his gang went into town that night “to see what they could get”. The trial continues.
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