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The chilling final plea of Hannah Cornelius before she was gang raped and murdered.

Warning: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

Before Hannah Cornelius was killed, she begged her alleged attackers to let her live.

On 27 May, 2017 the 21-year-old South African woman was dropping her friend Cheslin Marsh, 22, home in Stellenbosch near Cape Town when a group of four men allegedly approached the VW Citi Golf car and threatened them with a knife and screwdriver.

These men – Geraldo Parsons, 27, Vernon Witbooi, 33 and Eben van Niekerk, 28 – are facing multiple charges including murder, kidnap, rape and robbery in a trial that has the whole world watching. Their co-accused Nashville Julius, 29, is charged with aggravated robbery and kidnapping, as he fled the scene after robbing Hannah and Cheslin.

According to Times Live, Parsons told the court they only intended on stealing the car and robbing its occupants, but things took a turn after driving Hannah and Cheslin around while trying to buy drugs with the stolen money.

The court heard they took Cheslin out of the car and one of the men, Witbooi, ordered him to lie on his stomach and told Parsons that they must kill him.

Parsons claimed Witbooi threw two bricks at Cheslin’s head before driving off. They believed he was dead. He said they then drove to another spot where they planned to drop Hannah off, but as they drove Witbooi handed him a condom.

“I don’t know where he got it from. Vernon said Hannah said we can have sex with her but then we must leave her after that,” a weeping Parsons told the court. “I saw it in her eyes that she was terrified. She said we can have sex but I saw she didn’t want to.”

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He told the court Hannah pleaded for the men not to kill her after they “have sex with her”.

He said he, as well as Witbooi and van Niekerk all raped Cornelius.

“It didn’t feel right,” Parsons said, crying. “I have a girlfriend and children. But I did it.”

Hannah was then put in the boot of the car and taken to a farm.

Parsons said he wanted to leave her there so they could steal the car. In order to do so, he went to take her out of the boot but she didn’t want to climb out. So they killed her.

“She was holding on to the car. She started panicking. Eben came up and stabbed her. I let her go as the blood started to spill,” he told the court.

“Then I saw Vernon arrive with a rock. Vernon tripped Hannah as she was standing. And she fell. I told Vernon‚ ‘don’t kill her‚ we’ve already killed Cheslin‚ let’s leave her’. But Vernon threw the rock on Hannah’s head.”

Hannah Cornelius
Hannah was in her second year of university, studying a BA in Humanities. Image: Facebook.

In earlier evidence pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams told the court that the impact from the rock would have killed her instantly. Cornelius also had significant injuries to her genital area, with Dr Abrahams saying the sexual assault would have been "a very painful experience".

After the alleged rape and murder, the men spent the night on a robbery spree, robbing at least three women in the stolen car before a high speed police chase. Three were arrested after dumping the car and the fourth was arrested later.

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Cornelius' friend Marsh returned to consciousness the next day with severe head injuries and a broken arm. He raised the alarm at a nearby house, but by that time Cornelius' body had already been found.

Tragically, Cornelius' mother Anna Cornelius was died less than a year after her daughter, and is not able to see Hannah's attackers put on trial.

Hannah and Anna Cornelius.
Hannah and Anna Cornelius. Image: Facebook.

The Sun reported Anna was found drowned in March this year when beachgoers spotted her body in shallow water. Her death was ruled as a fatal accident that took place during Anna's daily ocean swim.

Following her daughters death, Anna created the Hannah Cornelius Foundation to "ensure that Hannah’s warm, compassionate and caring heart would reach all those in need of her love and support".

The Foundation provides guidance and mentoring to young people, mainly those who are at risk of violence.

Closing arguments in the case will continue on Tuesday.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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