Cape Town - Investigating officers shed light on their evidence-collecting methods in the Hannah Cornelius murder trial this week.
The Stellenbosch University student and her friend, Cheslin Marsh, were abducted from his Nouveau apartment building in Stellenbosch by four men while they parked outside the hostel in Cornelius’s blue and white VW Citi Golf.
Cornelius was raped and killed and her body discovered on the morning of May 27, 2017.
Marsh spent most of the ordeal bundled into the boot of the car.
The four accused, Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and Nashville Julius, face robbery, rape, murder and abduction charges in the Cape High Court.
Van Nieker, who is accused Number 3, in a video confession with Stellenbosch police, claims he had nothing to do with the rape and murder of Cornelius.
Warrant Officer Themba Ntobela was at pains to describe to the court just how careful they are when collecting DNA samples, so as not to contaminate the crime scene and the evidence itself.
He told the court that they collected evidence from the mouthpiece of a water bottle found inside the vehicle, saliva from the front seat of the car and from the left-rear handle of the car.
“All evidence is collected, placed in forensic bags, registered and stored and then transported to the lab for forensic analysis,” said Ntobela.
The four accused appeared disinterested, with accused No 1, Witbooi, biting his nails.
Ntobela said articles found in the car included a cellphone, hair samples, a flick-knife and a tik “lollie”.
A Bernadino Heights resident, Avril Fortuin, testified how Marsh jumped over his wall to seek help after he was allegedly attacked by the four accused.
“I heard a knock on the door and found this young man. He was bloodied and looked dishevelled. He asked if he could please call his mother,” said Fortuin.
Fortuin testified that Marsh was not wearing shoes at the time.
Sergeant Zane van Graan, who has a slight stutter, explained to the court how he read the accused their rights when they were arrested. Witbooi and Julies laughed as the officer struggled to get through his testimony.
Warrant Officer Nomfundo Ngwenya, a fingerprint expert with the provincial crime scenes investigations, told the court she found Parsons’s fingerprints near the boot of the car.
This ties in with Marsh’s version that Parsons was one of the four accused who bundled him into the boot of the car.
“We only needed seven identical ridges to make a positive identification,” Ngwenya pointed out to the court.
The head of detectives at Stellenbosch SAPS, Damon Benecke, told the Cape High Court that he was the only officer present when Van Niekerk made his video confession to the police.
“I read him his rights and he understood his rights.
"It did seem to me that he had a learning disability,” said Benecke.
According to Benecke, Van Niekerk told him he was present when the murder took place, but that he did not commit any crime.
Sergeant Marlon Appollis testified that police found a piece of paper that looked like it had been torn from a French book in the possession of Witbooi.
French was one of Cornelius’s subjects at university.
Marsh was not in court this week. He gave a very emotional testimony last week.