“It is my belief that our family died with Hannah, and was buried when my wife walked into the ocean a short time later and did not come back.” Picture: Zodidi/Cape Argus
Cape Town - “Our family died with Hannah and was buried when my wife walked into the ocean a short time later and did not come back.”

In heart-rending testimony, Hannah Cornelius’s father, Willem Cornelius, spoke for the first time about the impact her murder has had on his family. He was testifying in aggravation of sentence for killers Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and co-convict Nashville Julius. They were convicted on Wednesday.

Making his first appearance in court since the trial started, Cornelius, who is also an advocate, said that after seeing the docket for the case he did not have the courage to attend court proceedings.

He apologised to the Marsh family, who attended the first few days of the trial. Hannah’s friend Cheslin Marsh, who was with her on that fateful day, was brutally attacked and left for dead.

“I find it difficult to express exactly what I feel A year-and-a-half later, I am still under psychological care and on anti-depression medication, with no end in sight in the foreseeable future. There is no real joy, no hope, no expectations for the future, no goals to strive to - just the obligation to give my son as much of a life that he can have,” he said.

Cornelius, who dressed in a black suit with a white rose lapel in remembrance of Hannah, told the court his wife, Anna Cornelius, had become “a shadow of herself”, after the murder.

Anna, 56, reportedly drowned on March 23 this year while taking a swim at Scarborough beach.

“No one really knows what happened on that early morning when she decided to go swimming in an ice-cold, stormy ocean. I do not believe she took her own life, but I do believe she did not have the physical or mental strength left to counter any difficulties she may have experienced,” he said.

Keeping his composure as he stared at his daughter’s killers, Cornelius said that standing in the witness box was the last thing he could do for his Hannah, who could no longer speak for herself.

During Cornelius’s testimony, Parsons kept his head in his hands. There were moments when he sobbed.

The gallery was packed with Cornelius family members and supporters. They all wore T-shirts bearing Hannah’s face and carried a white rose.

Willem highlighted that his daughter had been a protective sister to her autistic brother. “Every night when I put him to bed, he stops in front of a framed photograph of Hannah and asks when her holiday will be over”.

Hannah’s aunt, Professor Eleanor Cornelius, described the four men as “monsters”.

“No man would smile in court like nothing happened. Four monsters attacked her, not men,” she sobbed.

Hannah, 21, and Marsh were kidnapped in her VW Citi Golf in Stellenbosch on May 27 last year. Hannah’s body was found near Koelenhof Farm. She had been raped, while Marsh was left for dead in a bushy area in Kraaifontein. Sentencing is on Monday.

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Cape Argus