She was twenty-one years old, and Cheslin Marsh was twenty-two. The two were best friends. The two were students at South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch. They liked to have fun together and would often go to dance clubs together to unwind after a long week of studying.
They had been painting all over town on Saturday, May 27, 2017, until well after midnight. It was Cheslin’s plan to skateboard back to his flat, but Hannah wouldn’t let him. To get him home, she insisted on driving him in her grandmother’s gift Volkswagen Citi Golf. She knew how dangerous the roads could be at that time of night.
When they pulled into the parking lot in front of Cheslin’s apartment, the security cameras in the building caught them moving. Four men could be seen walking in and out of the picture while they said goodnight in the car. A short time later, the group shows up again, but this time they go to Hannah’s car and surround it from all sides.
Driver’s side window was partly down, even though it was cold outside. This gave one of the men just enough room to stick a screwdriver in Hannah’s face. With a split second, Cheslin knew they were in trouble and grabbed the makeshift weapon. At that moment, one of the men jumped into the back of the car and held a knife to the couple’s throat.
At that point, chaos broke out as the four attackers robbed the couple with knives. Hannah begged them to take what they wanted and leave, but one of the men took the goods and held Cheslin in the trunk while the others ran off. Hannah was left alone with the three criminals.
The men told their scared captive that they only wanted the car and would drop her and her friend off whenever they had a chance. So they drove off into the night.
A man walked into a gas station about three and a half miles up the road to use the ATM, as seen on CCTV footage from the station. He tried for a while but couldn’t get it to work, and then he was seen leaving the store. Later, it came out that the card he tried to use but couldn’t was actually Cheslin Marsh’s. Marsh had stopped his captors from draining his bank account by giving them the wrong PIN number.
At 4:43 a.m., more than an hour after stealing the car, the three kidnappers drove to a remote area outside of town. On the way, they stopped to smoke drugs with a friend who was a drug dealer before continuing on their way.
They got out of the trunk and took Cheslin out once they found a place that worked for them. As soon as they had him on the ground, they started beating him badly over the head with broken bricks they found lying around. When he finally stopped fighting and passed out, they went back to the car, where Hannah was waiting, clearly upset.
Hannah tried to make a deal with her captors even though she knew what was going to happen. She told them she wouldn’t fight back if they promised to let her go when they were done because she knew they would se*xually assault her anyway. She was too trusting and kind, and she thought that these thieves, kidnappers, and now rapists would keep their promises.
The men then took turns raping Hannah for the next few terrifying minutes. They said she hadn’t said a word the whole time. Later, one of them would say that he was surprised by how calm she was considering how violent the attack was.
The people who attacked Hannah put her in the trunk and said they would look for a good place to let her go when they were done. Instead, they drove to a vineyard because they thought it would be far enough away for what they were going to do next.
Hannah grabbed the inside of the trunk and held on for dear life when they tried to pull her out. As she had realised, they were not going to let her go, she wasn’t going to leave on her own.
One of the men pulled out a knife during the fight and stabbed her in the throat, which made her let go of the man. Hannah was hurt and couldn’t do anything, so she was taken from the trunk and thrown onto a pile of gravel. The men she had worked so hard to please then crushed her head with the biggest rock they could find once they had her place.
The three were not at all bothered by what they were doing when they took off in their victim’s car to get more drugs. They were riding around the area around Stellenbosch when they saw a woman walking alone on a street that was empty. They stopped to rob her. They went on their crime spree again not long after that when they kidnapped another woman and stole her debit card.
Once they found a petrol station, one of the men went inside and used their latest prisoner’s bank information to get R3000 ($159.71) from an ATM. Security footage from the time of the events showed that the men were as cool as cucumbers as they walked inside to get their stolen goods. Once they had the woman’s money, they let her go without hurting her.
This is how Cheslin Marsh looked the morning after he was beaten and left for dead.
A couple in the town of Kraaifontein, which is twelve miles from Stellenbosch, woke up around six a.m. to the sound of someone yelling for help from outside their house. When they ran to see what was going on, they saw Cheslin Marsh, a young man who said his name was Marsh, lying in the middle of the road, badly hurt and bleeding.
They called the police after hearing that he had been robbed, beaten, and left to die in his car. As soon as the police got Cheslin’s account of what happened the night before, they heard that farm workers had found the body of a woman lying face down in a field on the edge of town.
As a result of being seriously hurt, Cheslin was the one who identified Hannah’s body.
Hannah’s car was parked where her attackers were caught.
Lucky for them, police quickly saw the blue VW Citi Golf weaving through traffic in Steffenborsch, not long after the first reports came in. After the chase, the driver managed to stay out of sight for a while before turning down a street that led nowhere by accident. When he and his passenger could no longer go, they jumped out of the car and ran away, but police were right behind them. They didn’t get very far before they were caught and arrested.
After some investigation, the suspects were found to be Geraldo Parsons, 27, and Vernon Witbooi, 33. Nashville Julius, who was 29 years old, and Eben van Niekerk, who was 28 years old, were picked up later that morning at their homes. One hundred and eleven hours had passed since the men first saw Hannah and Cheslin until they were handcuffed and taken away.
Given how blatant their crimes were, South African authorities weren’t shocked to learn that all four of the suspects had criminal records that could have filled a book. They were also found to be part of the notorious “Numbers” prison gang, which is the cruellest criminal group in the country.
The men were charged with kidnapping, raping, and kil*ling Hannah Cornelius once they were in police custody. They were also charged with kidnapping, robbing, and attempting to ki*ll Cheslin Marsh.
Nashville Julius, Geraldo Parsons, Vernon Witbooi, and Eben van Niekerk are in order from left to right.
Their Day in Court
Partly because the crimes were so horrible, the trial started much faster than planned. For their part, the defendants seemed to think the proceedings were just a small bother, as shown by the fact that they were always joking and laughing in front of a full courtroom. Everyone there, including the judge who would decide what would happen to them, could see from how they acted that the lives of the people they kil*led did not matter to them.
Parsons was the only one of the gang who could talk about what happened that night. He said that they hadn’t meant to ki*ll or se*xually assault anyone, but rather to get money to buy drugs. The thieves decided in an instant to rob Hannah and Cheslin and steal their car to sell for quick cash after seeing them sitting in the car without noticing them.
They changed their plans when they realised they could have the couple and everything they owned. When asked about the decision to k*ill them, Parsons said that it had been made quickly. They used Hannah however they saw fit before ending her life because she was going to die anyway.
Even though he freely admitted to taking part in the rape, Parsons, who was waiting for his girlfriend and children at home, said he had nothing to do with what was going to happen. He said Vernon Witbooi was the only one who could be blamed for Hannah’s death because he dropped the big rock on her head while everyone else watched.
The four defendants were found guilty of all charges at the end of the trial. Parsons, Witbooi, and Niekerk were given life sentences with the chance of parole after 25 years. Julius was given fifteen years in prison because he left before the victims were taken to a second location.
As the defendants walked out of the courtroom after the verdict, the crowd booed and teased them. Geraldo Parsons showed he had no self-control by sticking his tongue out at the crowd like a spoiled child.
Cheslin Marsh, who lost the hearing in his left ear as a result of the attack, went on to graduate from college with honors. A proud husband and father, he has worked hard to rise above that fateful winter’s night when he and Hannah were set upon by monsters they thought existed only in nightmares.
Hannah’s close-knit family never recovered from her loss. A year after her daughter’s death, Hannah’s mother Anna got up early one morning and went for her usual swim in the ocean. On this occasion, however, she had walked into the water and just kept going. Her body was found later that afternoon. The cause of death was determined to be drowning. She was only fifty-six years old.
Willem Cornelius, who had stated publicly that his entire family had died along with his daughter Hannah, succumbed to cancer in 2022. Her brother Andrias, who suffers from autism, resides in a facility where his special needs are seen to around the clock.
It has been said that a single act of violence can claim countless lives with one fell swoop. This is especially true of the devastated families of m*urder victims; their deaths just take longer to come to pass. While it may sound melodramatic, it’s a sad reality, as this disturbing case illustrates.