From left are Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and Nashville Julius. The trial of the men, accused of the kidnapping and rape of Hannah Cornelius, was postponed. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The men on trial for the rape and murder of Stellenbosch student, Hannah Cornelius, and attempted murder of her friend, Cheslin Marsh, are trying to confuse the court with each minimising their role in the crimes. 

State prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst argued that Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and Nashville Julius had agreed to rob and kidnap the two, who were seated in Cornelius’s parked Citi Golf in Stellenbosch during the early hours of May 27 last year.

This led to the body of Cornelius, 21, being dumped on the side of the road close to a wine farm in the town.

She had been raped while Marsh was assaulted and dumped in bushes in Kraaifontein.

Cornelius’s vehicle was later used in an armed robbery in Northpine, between Brackenfell and Kraaifontein.

Badenhorst told the court the accused were all in on the robbery.

“They made an assessment and calculated their options. They changed routes from taking a busy route to taking Jan Cillier Street which was less busy. They had an intention to rob, as per accused two’s (Parsons) testimony,” he said.

Van Niekerk was the one to assess who was in the parked vehicle while Witbooi and Parsons were the ones to approach the car first. Both Parsons and Witbooi gave their own versions of how the murder unfolded, with one accusing the other of giving orders.

“At the robbery, the intention was to put the people in the boot. They weren’t just going to get the car, they would take the people too. The agreement was to rob and kidnap. We know accused two had a knife,” said Badenhorst.

He said Julius, who is charged with robbery and kidnapping, was in agreement with his co-accused; despite him leaving the scene early.

Badenhorst said the modus operandi in the murder of Cornelius was similar to the attack on Marsh. “They were both left for dead, both put in a boot, both stoned and dumped in bushes. It is unfortunate that Hannah was (hit) by a huge stone; she was also stabbed,” he said.

The court heard the testimony of Parsons’s girlfriend, Elicia Johnson, who revealed that the day after the incident she went to Van Niekerk’s home to look for Parsons. He was burning a plastic bag.

“I asked him what’s in the bag and he said he is burning his clothes and shoes which were full of blood. He said he was involved in a robbery,” said Johnson.

The defence is expected to argue today.


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Cape Argus