Han­nah’s fa­ther digs deep

Willem Cor­nelius keeps his com­po­sure to speak about his daugh­ter’s rape and mur­der and his fam­ily’s pain

Daily News - - METRO - ZODIDI DANO zodidi.dano@inl.co.za

“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.

ZODIDI DANO

WILLEM Cor­nelius, Han­nah Cor­nelius’s fa­ther, gave a heart break­ing tes­ti­mony in court about the im­pact of his daugh­ter’s death yes­ter­day. |

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