Court shoots down Hannah Cornelius kidnapper's appeal bid

Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Nashville Julius and Eben van Niekerk in the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court.
Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons, Nashville Julius and Eben van Niekerk in the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

One of the men convicted of robbing and kidnapping Stellenbosch University students Hannah Cornelius and Cheslin Marsh has had his application for leave to appeal dismissed. 

Judge Rosheni Allie, who sentenced Nashville Julius in November 2018 to an effective 22 years in prison, rejected his bid to appeal against the conviction and sentence on Tuesday.

In her judgment, Allie said Julius “played an active role” in searching for Cornelius’s car keys when he, Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Eben van Niekerk robbed the two  students in May 2017.

Cornelius was raped and murdered by the rest of the group and Marsh was beaten and left for dead after they drove off with the students in the car.

Although video footage showed Julius left the scene after the four men robbed the students, the court found that his participation in the robbery “facilitated his co-accuseds’ quest to drive off with the car containing Marsh and the deceased”.

Allie said: “He played an instrumental role in ensuring that the objects of the group to rob and kidnap were carried out.”

In his application for leave to appeal, Julius said the court “erred by concluding that he  did not actively disassociate himself from the kidnapping of the deceased and Cheslin Marsh as described in the charges against him”.

His application, prepared by legal aid advocate Scanlyn Collins, said Allie overemphasised the seriousness of Julius’s offences and “did not afford the necessary weight” to his personal circumstances.

Collins also argued that Julius disassociated himself by walking away from the group.

Hannah Cornelius, 21, was robbed and kidnapped by Nashville Julius and three others.
Hannah Cornelius, 21, was robbed and kidnapped by Nashville Julius and three others.
Image: Supplied

In her sentencing, Allie said: “He must be punished for the offences that he committed and not rewarded for the offences that he didn’t commit.”

She said his disassociation was acknowledged when he escaped being charged with murder, rape and attempted murder, like the other three in the dock.

“That disassociation does not, however, translate into mitigation for the offences of which he was convicted,” she said.

She also pointed out that Julius was brought up in a stable and loving family environment, which made his offences “inexplicable”.

“I am in agreement with the state’s submission that the use of drugs didn’t negatively influence the accused’s cognitive abilities and it can’t be considered to be a mitigating factor,” she said.

Julius had seven previous convictions involving “an element of dishonesty”. Allie said no previous sentence had deterred him from continuing to commit crime, making him “an unsuitable candidate for rehabilitation”.

Collins said they had 21 days in which to consider approaching the Supreme Court of Appeal.


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