Sara Malm and Julian Robinson, Daily Mail, November 8, 2018
The father of a student who was gang-raped and murdered in South Africa has revealed his wife ‘walked into the ocean and didn’t return’ after struggling to cope with her loss.
Willem Cornelius said his wife, Anna, became a ‘shadow of herself’ after their daughter Hannah, 21, was killed following a night out in in Stellenbosch, west of Cape Town, in May last year.
Addressing court today where he faced his daughter’s killers, Mr Cornelius said his ‘family died with Hannah’.
He revealed how his wife — once ‘the strongest and most competent person I have ever met’ — struggled to come to terms with the death and one day ‘decided to go swimming in the ice-cold and stormy Atlantic Ocean’.
He added: ‘I do not believe that she committed suicide … but what I do believe is that she did not have the physical or mental strength left to counter any difficulties that she may have experienced.’
Hannah was carjacked while dropping off fellow student Cheslin Marsh, 22, at his home in Stellenbosch.
Geraldo Parsons, 27, Vernon Witbooi, 33, and Eben van Niekerk, 28, were yesterday found guilty of the rape and murder, as well as the kidnap, robbery and attempted murder of Mr Marsh. A fourth man, Nashville Julius, 29, was found guilty of kidnapping and robbing Ms Cornelius and Mr Marsh.
Today, Mr Cornelius, was called to the stand in the Western Cape High Court and revealed he had not previously been able to sit through the harrowing proceedings, saying: ‘I couldn’t bear to hear what they did to my daughter’.
Earlier, her aunt, Professor Eleanor Cornelius slammed the attackers for smiling throughout the case ‘like they had only gotten up to mischief’.
In his heartbreaking appearance in court, Mr Cornelius said the effect of his daughter’s death on the family was ‘beyond devastating’ and revealed his wife ‘walked into the ocean and didn’t return’.
While he does not believe his wife intended to kill herself, he said she lacked the physical or mental strength to deal with what happened.
‘I believe our family died with Hannah,’ he told the court.
Once a magistrate, he said he did not believe he had the impartiality to continue in the role after what had happened to his daughter.
Earlier, the mother of Cheslin Marsh — who was battered with bricks and left for dead by the attackers — took the stand and spoke directly to the men in the dock.
Marilyn Marsh said: ‘Who does something like that to a person? My son did nothing to you.’
Yesterday, video footage from the court posted on social media by Times Live heard Parsons and Witbooi being asked in Afrikaans if they are sorry, to which Parsons responded that he was.
Witbooi, whom the judge revealed has a violent criminal record going back 19 years, was also filmed giving a camera a ‘thumbs up’ as he left Western Cape Court.
This morning, the court heard that Parsons had a tattoo on his body saying ‘f**k the cops’ and another saying ‘hungry for money, thirsty for blood’.
Another shows a baboon with a woman’s face with its legs open, the court was told, according to News24.
Parsons had previously told the court during the trial that the quartet had only intended on stealing Ms Cornelius’ car and that the incident spiralled after they saw the two students still inside.
He said the desperate student had bargained with them, agreeing to let the men sexually assault her — as long as they let her live.
However, several of the men brutally raped her, after which they threw her into the boot of her own car, and drove her to a secluded spot where they murdered her.
CCTV footage released during the trial shows how the incident began in the early hours of May 27, 2017.
Four men are seen surrounded Ms Cornelius’ VW Golf, parked outside the block of flats where Mr Marsh lived.
Mr Marsh says they had ended up chatting in the car, and were interrupted by a man putting a screwdriver to Ms Cornelius’ chest through the open window.
They were forced out of the car, after which Mr Marsh was robbed of cash and his phone and locked in the car boot.
The four men forced Ms Cornelius to get back into the car with them, after which they drove to a drug dealer’s home to smoke crystal meth, before they drove out of Stellenbosch and pulled over near a local vineyard.
They reportedly dragged Mr Marsh out of the boot and made him lay his head on a rock on the ground before battering his skull with bricks until they thought he was dead.
Mr Marsh recovered consciousness the following day, and staggered to a nearby home suffering severe head injuries and a broken arm to raise the alarm about Ms Cornelius.
Unknown to him her body had been found just hours earlier, dumped by the roadside.
After the rape and murder of Ms Cornelius, the gang went on a crime spree in the hijacked car, robbing at least three women before the stolen car was spotted and a high speed police chase began.
Three were arrested after dumping the car and fleeing and the fourth was arrested later.