Eleven-hour ‘hell ride’ that led to gang rape and murder of Hannah Cornelius

Hannah Cornelius was gang raped and murdered during an 11-hour "hell ride" where by killers who terrorised random women they found in the street.

The terrifying ordeal began when the 21-year-old student and a friend were carjacked in the middle of the night in May 2017.

Hannah forced into the back seat of her own car and, along with pal Cheslin Marsh, 22, was driven around until their abductors decided to end their lives.

Cheslin survived after he was beaten with bricks and left for dead, but Hannah was raped repeatedly and taken to a secluded spot in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she was fatally stabbed in the neck.

Her killers didn’t stop there – they carried on in her blue and white Volkswagen Citi Golf and attacked two more women before their crime spree came to an end hours later.

May 27, 2017 – 3.23am

Hannah’s car is seen pulling into a grass patch to drop off Cheslin, her classmate, in CCTV footage captured by a camera positioned outside a shop.

They were tired after a night of dancing and dominoes and sat talking for a few minutes, unaware of the danging lurking nearby, TimesLIVE reported in a video titled "11 Hours, 4 Victims, 1 Hell Ride".


Video shows four men – Nashville Julius, 29, Geraldo Parsons, 27, Eben Van Niekerk, 28, and Vernon Witbooi, 33 – approaching about five minutes later.

Julius and Witbooi had told police in separate interviews that they were on their way to a block of flats when they spotted the car with two passengers inside.

They decide to approach and rob the occupants.

3.30am

The men – armed with a screwdriver and a flick knife – attack Hannah and Cheslin in the car.

The screwdriver is held to Hannah’s chest and the pair are robbed – Hannah of her purse and mobile phone, and Cheslin of his phone, wallet, backpack and earrings.

Julius left the scene after the robbery, but the other three men abducted Hannah and Cheslin.

Cheslin was forced into the back seat and Hannah was shoved between the two front seats as the car was driven away at 3.40am.

4.34am


This is believed to be the last time Hannah was seen alive.

CCTV from a petrol station outside of Stellenbosch, west of Cape Town, shows the young woman, wearing a cream-coloured jacket, in the front passenger seat.

By now, Cheslin has been forced into the car’s boot.

Witbooi gets out of the car and enters the station, where he tries to withdraw money from Cheslin’s bank account using a cash machine.

The attempt is unsuccessful, however, because Cheslin gave the men the wrong PIN.

The group drives off and heads to Kraaifontein.

5am

In his interview, Witbooi tells police that Hannah is alive at this point and complying with the men’s demands.

He says: "(Hannah) didn’t talk at all. She just looked out in front of her."

The men tell her that they want to use her car to go back to their homes and they will return it to her and let her go, but it’s a lie. Hannah would be dead within a few of hours.

5.30am-6am

The group stop in Kraaifontein, where Cheslin is forced out of the car and brutally beaten with bricks for giving them the wrong PIN.

Hannah was terrified and asked the men what they were planning to do.

They berate Cheslin for giving them the wrong PIN and order him to lay down and put his head on a brick.


It was still dark outside, but Cheslin tells investigators that he remembers seeing two men holding bricks in his hands.

He said he closed his eyes and prayed, and was then knocked unconscious and left for dead. He didn’t regain consciousness until the day after the attack.

Cheslin was left traumatised following the attack with life-changing injuries. He is deaf in one ear.

6am-7.30am

After driving off and leaving Cheslin in a pool of blood, the men take Hannah to a secluded paintball site on Bottelray Road where she is raped repeatedly.

They force her back into the car and drive about 12 miles from Stellenbosch to a farm road next to a stream and a vineyard, where they stop and drag her out of the vehicle.

Hannah is stabbed in the neck.

A large rock is dropped on her head, crushing her skull, before the killers – Parsons, van Niekerk and Witbooi – leave her body and drive off in her car.

A murder trial heard Hannah had pleaded with her kidnappers, saying they could sexually assault her but begging them to spare her life.

Parsons told the court that the group believed they had killed Cheslin, and admitted being the first to rape Hannah.

He claimed the men planned to leave her on a farm, but she had struggled.

According to Times Live, he told the trial: "She didn’t want to climb out of the boot. She was holding on to the car. She started panicking. Eben came up and stabbed her."

He claimed to have pleaded with Witbooi not to kill her, but she was hit twice over the head, with experts saying she died instantly.

Another man, referred to as "Kaffertjie", gave the trio drugs before they raped and killed Hannah. "Kaffertjie" was never arrested.

After killing Hannah, the men continue their crime spree after sunrise, targeting a woman walking to work in Kraaifontein.

They chase her down and steal her bag and phone.

1pm

Several hours pass before the men rob and kidnap another woman in the street, using Hannah’s car.

At 1.12pm, they drive to a petrol station in Brackenfell – where CCTV shows Witbooi wearing a different pair of trousers.

He withdraws 3,000 rand (£161) from the bank account of the kidnapped woman, who is in the back of the car.

She is freed a short time later near the spot where Hannah was raped, and van Niekerk is soon dropped off.

At least one other woman was also attacked.

2.12pm

The car – now occupied by just Parsons and Witbooi – is spotted by undercover police, who follow it and are soon joined by a marked police van.

This leads to a high-speed pursuit which comes to an end on a farm road.

The men ditch the car and try to flee on foot, but they’re arrested a short time later – 11 hours after Hannah and Cheslin were attacked.

Killers found guilty

On Wednesday, Parsons, van Niekerk, and Witbooi were found guilty of kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder. Julius was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping.

All four had pleaded not guilty.

They are due to be sentenced on Monday.

Afterwards, Hannah’s heartbroken dad, Willem, recounted how the student’s 56-year-old mother, Anna, drowned months after the murder after becoming "a shadow of herself".

Anna was found dead by beachgoers in Scarborough, Cape Town, in March this year.

Mr Cornelius said: "I do not believe that she committed suicide… but what I do believe is that she did not have the physical or mental strength left to counter any difficulties that she may have experienced."

He added: "She became a shadow of herself… frantic, almost manic in everything she did.

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

He said his autistic son was unaware for some time of Hannah’s death.

Struggling to hold back the tears, the former magistrate added: "I believe our family died with (Hannah).

"All parents believe their children are exceptional. We were no different.

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

Read More

Hannah Cornelius

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  • Accused ‘has pearls embedded in penis’
  • Final moments captured on CCTV
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