Tue, 22 Oct 2019

Closing in on the four men accused of the rape and murder of Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius, the State presented a slew of DNA evidence and cellphone tower analyses in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

The court heard evidence that there were positive DNA links to two of the accused, Vernon Witbooi and Geraldo Parsons, so far, based on the analysis of a condom and skin cells.

DNA samples taken from the two were also mixed into samples found on a Twizza soft drink bottle and the handle of the blue VW Golf which Cornelius and her friend, Cheslin Marsh, were driving when they were kidnapped in the early hours of May 27, 2017.

Cornelius had insisted on giving Marsh a lift home after a night out with friends. They were pounced on in the parking lot of Battery Centre. After a hell ride, a brick was used to hit Marsh on the head before he was left for dead in a field.

He was able to get help and, despite severe confusion from the blow to his head, he assisted Crime Intelligence officer Captain Carl Loesch. Loesch visited him in hospital to ask what he could remember and set off to find the blue VW Golf that Cornelius had inherited from her grandmother.

READ: Crime intelligence officer tells court how he tailed murdered Hannah Cornelius' car

Cornelius was raped and a blunt object was used to hit her on the head. Two borehole technicians found her body on a farm in Knorhoek later on May 27.

Besides the DNA evidence submitted by microbiologist Warrant Officer Blanche Stubbs, clues were also left via the "spoor" of Cornelius's cellphone.

She had only had the Huawei for about a month when she and Marsh were kidnapped.

Warrant Officer Anna-Marie van Niekerk said cellphone tower analyses, based on Cornelius's Vodacom records, showed that her phone was in the vicinity of the Caltex petrol station, which fell within the triangulated range where her cellphone was used.

Her vehicle was spotted on CCTV at that petrol station.

The cellphone tower indicated that it was also possible that her phone was at the site where her body was found.

She was found dead on May 27 and her phone was still in use on May 28.

A new SIM card was put in later on May 28 and the device was used until June 13.

Parsons, Witbooi, Eben van Niekerk and Nashville Julius were subsequently arrested and face a string of charges, including murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and rape.

The trial continues.

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