CAPE TOWN - The three men who kidnapped, raped and murdered student Hannah Cornelius and severely injured her friend, Cheslin Marsh, in Stellenbosch last year were handed life sentences by the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk were convicted last week of robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder.
A fourth man, Nashville Julius, was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping and was sentenced to 22 years direct imprisonment. He fled the scene after the gang of men had accosted and robbed Cornelius and Marsh.
The public gallery cheered and shouted in delight as Judge Rosheni Allie handed down the sentences.
Marsh and Cornelius were attacked by the four men at about 3am on 27 May 2017 while they were chatting in her car after a night out with friends.
They were threatened with a knife and a screwdriver before they were robbed and taken to an open veld where Marsh was bludgeoned with bricks and left for dead. He survived the attack, although he suffered severe injuries including to his head and has been left deaf in one ear.
The suspects then drove off with Cornelius and took her to a secluded spot where they took turns raping her. They then drove her to a wine farm where they stabbed her to death.
Witbooi and Parsons were both sentenced to life imprisonment for raping and murdering Cornelius; 25 years each for the attempted murder of Marsh; 15 years for four counts of robbery which included other separate victims who were robbed by the accused; and a further 10 years for kidnapping Marsh, Cornelius and Mimi October who was robbed and kidnapped on the same morning of the incident.
Co-accused Van Niekerk was sentenced to life behind bars for rape and murder of Cornelius; 20 years direct imprisonment for the attempted murder of Marsh; 20 years each on four counts of robbery; 10 years each for kidnapping Cornelius and Marsh; and a further eight years for kidnapping October.
Julius was sentenced to 15 years direct imprisonment on two counts of robbery; and a further seven years on two counts of kidnapping.