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 - Yet another accused in the Hannah Cornelius murder trial, Eben van Niekerk, has placed himself at the scene where the student and her friend, Cheslin Marsh, were hijacked, which led to her rape and murder.

On Wednesday, the Western Cape High Court heard the testimony of Stellenbosch detective Damon Beneke, who took Van Niekerk’s statement.

Beneke said that when Van Niekerk made the statement he told the police that he “wanted to get something off his chest”.

“He said he wanted to tell his side of the story,” Beneke said.

In the statement, Van Niekerk says that he, Vernon Witbooi and Geraldo Parson left home early on Saturday, May 28, last year.

On their way they saw the blue Citi Golf that Cornelius and Marsh were in.

Van Niekerk cut then cut his statement short by deciding to wait for legal representation.

“I choose to seek legal aid to help me explain my role that morning. I was there, I can’t deny that, but I didn’t commit any crime,” he said.

Van Niekerk is the third accused to place himself at the hijacking scene. Last week a statement by co-accused, Nashville Julius, was also placed on record. In the statement, Julius admits taking Marsh’s phone and selling it.

Witbooi made a confession admitting to the robbery, but denied any involvement in the rape and murder of Cornelius, and the assault of Marsh.

Cornelius, 21, was found dead close to a wine farm in Stellenbosch.

According to the State, Van Niekerk wrote an apology to Cornelius’s parents. The letter is in dispute and the State indicated that a trial within a trial would take place to allow it to prove the letter’s authenticity.

According to Beneke, there was a blood-stained concrete block at the scene in an open field near Bernadino Heights where Marsh’s assault took place. It was taken by the police as evidence.

Earlier, the owner of the house to which Marsh ran to for help testified.

Avril Fortuin told the court he and his wife heard a knocking sound at their boundary wall. He said he initially thought it was their dog, but his wife convinced him to investigate the noise.

“I opened the window and saw a person standing in the yard. He was bleeding, his clothes torn and looked a mess. I asked him who he was and what he was doing in my yard.

“I was very cautious because we had heard about the crimes that are happening in Scottsdene. He just asked if he could call his mother,” said Fortuin.

Fortuin said Marsh had no shoes on and, told the couple that he was scared “they were going to kill him”.

He said just as they were going to let him in a police van passed, and the police took Marsh with them.


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Cape Argus