Hannah Cornelius
Hannah Cornelius

#HannahCornelius ‘died instantly’ says State expert

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Oct 17, 2018

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Cape Town - Hannah Cornelius sustained two extreme blows to the head, from left to right, with so much force that they caused her skull to crack and her brain to tear.

On Tuesday, State forensic pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams told the Western Cape High Court that the 21-year-old died instantly from the blows.

“The skull is a strong, solid, boney set of plates. It is very strong in the middle for protection of the brain. Severe force is needed to fracture it and cause the brain to tear.

Cornelius, 21, was found dead on the side of Knorhoek Road, close to a wine farm in Stellenbosch on May 27 last year. She and a friend, Cheslin Marsh, were carjacked on the corner of Bird and Jan Cilliers streets in Stellenbosch. Cornelius’s Citi Golf was later allegedly used in an armed robbery in Northpine.

Abrahams, who visited the  crime scene, said it was likely that Cornelius died 2.8 hours before or after 6.30am.

The pathologist said she arrived at the scene to find Cornelius lying in a face-up position, but that when she died she must have been face down.

Abrahams said she died instantly from the two blows. The green polo-neck jersey she wore was imprinted on her skin as a result of the blow.

“The head injury was of such great severity that it caused the rapid and immediate demise of the person. She would not have been able to breathe, there was no active heartbeat and no brain circulation. 

“If she was alive after the blows there would have been blood seeping from the mouth to the scene,” Abrahams said.

About 1 to 2 litres of blood was found next to her. Cornelius also sustained a wound to the left side of the neck, with deep penetration through the soft tissue. The wound had internal bleeding that went up to the ear.

Abrahams said sand was found in her vagina and she had genital injuries that were not consistent with consensual sex. 

“Force against the cervix is very painful. This could have been a very painful experience for the person, including the injuries to the labia minora,” said Abrahams.

Earlier, the State called two borehole pump technicians, Flippie Booysen and Conrad Matthee.

On May 27, the two were assigned to install a borehole at the Knorhoek Farm. The next day they found Cornelius’s body.

“Something that resembled a person lay there,” said Booysen.

They testified to have seen Cornelius lying flat on her abdomen with her face to the ground and her pants lowered. 

The trial continues today.


Cape Argus

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