Friday, 16 Nov 2018
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Hannah Cornelius's mother went into the sea and died after the rape and murder of a girl

The broken-hearted father of a raped and murdered student in South Africa recounted how her mother died months later after becoming "a shadow of herself".

Addressing the Western Cape High Court, Willem Cornelius said that his family had died with his daughter Hannah, who died last May.

The 21-year-old female student was raped and murdered after she and her 22-year-old friend Cheslin Marsh were mutilated in Stellenbosch, west of Cape Town.

In March of this year, her mother Anna was found dead in shallow water by beach lovers in Scarborough, Cape Town.

Mr. Cornelius said: "I do not believe that she committed suicide … but what I think is that she no longer had the physical or mental strength to to face the difficulties that she might have encountered. "

Hannah Cornelius (left) with mother Anna (right), found dead in March of this year, less than a year after the murder of her daughter

Hannah's father, Willem Cornelius, arriving at the courthouse today

Describing the impact of their daughter's death on Anna, 56, Mr. Cornelius said, "My wife, in addition to being my best friend, was the strongest and most competent that I have never met.

"She has become a shadow of herself … frantic, almost maniacal in everything she's done.

"Outwardly always in control but inside, she had very little to give – there was very little substance."

During a lawsuit for murder, Hannah had pleaded with her captors, claiming that they could sexually assault her, while begging them to spare her life.

Hannah was raped and murdered last year

Hannah Cornelius was brutally murdered in May of last year

Eben Van Niekerk, 28, Geraldo Parsons, 27, and Vernon Witbooi, 33, were convicted yesterday of kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder, while co-accused Nashville Julius had been convicted yesterday of kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder, while co-accused Nashville Julius had been found guilty of theft and kidnapping.

After being stolen, Chaslin, 22, was beaten with bricks and left for dead by Van Niekerk, Parsons and Witbooi.

Another man, called "Kaffertjie", gave drugs to the trio before brutally raping Hannah and throwing stones on her head.

"Kaffertjie" has never been arrested.

Presenting his impact statement on the victim today before sentencing, Mr. Cornelius was heartbroken: "Before I begin, I want to apologize for being here for the first time .

"I did not want to know what had happened.The effect of Hannah's death on our family is more than devastating."

He added that his autistic son had not been aware for some time of Hannah's death.

Struggling to hold back her tears, the former magistrate added, "I think our family died with her.

"All parents think their children are exceptional, we were not different.

"She said that she wanted to do something that would help people."

Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Eben van Niekerk and Nashville Julius at the Western Cape High Court

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Parsons told the court that the group thought he had killed Chaslin and admitted to being the first to rape Hannah.

He said the men had planned to leave her on a farm, but she had argued.

Cheslin regained consciousness only in the aftermath of the attack, which occurred May 27 of last year.

According to Times Live, he said at the trial: "She did not want to get out of the trunk, she was holding the car, she started to panic, Eben came to stab her."

He claimed to have pleaded with Wotbooi that she would not kill her, but she was hit twice in the head. Experts claimed that she was dead instantly.

After killing Hannah, the men used her car to commit a series of robberies, attacking at least three women before being caught in the police trap.

The court heard that Hannah had gone through an "extremely painful" ordeal before being murdered.

Hannah suffered serious cervical and vaginal injuries during the prolonged attack.

Victim Cheslin Marsh sobbed while testifying in court

Following the verdict by Toni Raphael, of the Hannah Cornelius Foundation – which was created in her memory -, News24 said: "We are not happy that there are so many lives destroyed on their side, our side …

"There is no joy in that, but we are very grateful that the law has run its course and is holding people to account – that's how it should be."

In a Facebook article titled "When Anna joined Hannah," the Hannah Cornelius Foundation confirmed her death on Sunday, March 25.

Hannah underwent an "extremely painful" ordeal before dying, said the court

"Anna's friends and family knew her as an extraordinary human being, full of light, full of love and energy.After the death of her daughter Hannah, Anna founded the Hannah Cornelius Foundation in June 2017."

At a previous hearing, it appeared that Hannah's parents had received a letter from one of her alleged gang rapists asking for forgiveness.

Eben van Niekerk wrote the letter but claims that Sergeant Steven Adams asked him to write.

The letter was written after his arrest and before the first appearance of the four men in court.

It has been translated from Afrikaans and has a number of errors. The top of the letter read: "This letter comes from Eben VNK" and it was also signed and initialed.

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