HANNAH Cornelius was sitting in a car early last Friday when four "animals" struck without warning.

The 21-year-old university student was with a male friend, Cheslin Marsh, in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town in the Western Province when four men attacked their Blue VW Golf.

They had been sitting talking quietly in front of a block of flats when one of their assailants ripped open the door with a screwdriver.

A brutal carjacking had begun - but the worst was yet to come.

Mr Marsh was forced into the boot of the car and Ms Cornelius was put into the back seat as their hijackers drove them almost 20km away to Kraaifontein in suburban Cape Town.

It was then the four men allegedly unleashed a wave of terror on them.

According to News24, Mr Marsh was showered with bricks that left him bleeding from wounds all over his body. He managed to get away from the men and in desperation climbed over a wall where he was found by a startled resident, Averal Fortuin.

Mr Fortuin later revealed that the desperate young man had told him: "If I hadn't jumped over the wall, I would have been dead."

Mr Fortuin said Mr Marsh was "completely disorientated and didn't know where he was". His rugby jersey and shorts were covered in blood.

At first he thought Mr Marsh was a drunken intruder - until the young man began to beg him for help, saying "they were going to kill me".

His injuries included a broken arm and head injuries and he remains in a Cape Town hospital. But he is alive. Ms Cornelius was not so lucky.

Hannah Cornelius was sitting in a car with a friend when they were attacked.
Hannah Cornelius was sitting in a car with a friend when they were attacked.

South African media report she was driven to another location where she was raped, strangled and stabbed. Her body was found dumped on the side of the road, while her car was allegedly used in an armed robbery later that day.

The brutal murder of a popular student has created widespread distress in Stellenbosch and South Africa, even in a country thought to be hardened to violent crime.

The stunned student community reacted with shock and held hastily convened demonstrations, as well as flooding social media with tributes.

Ms Cornelius's uncle, Dries Cornelius, summed up the mood of many when he told Times Live: "Why? What is the reason behind killing her if you already have the car? I mean if they took the friend and seemingly also tried to kill him … it seems they just wanted to kill."

He told the website: "It's inexplicable; flippin' animals. I just hope they caught the guys who killed her so we don't wait another 10 years and hope the police find them."

Mr Cornelius said the family were still trying to just "process" the fact Hannah was gone.

Hannah Cornelius was sitting in a car with a friend when they were attacked.

Ms Cornelius's father is a senior judge and her mother a prominent lawyer in Cape Town legal circles. Mr Cornelius said the young woman's parents were devastated, as was her 18-year-old brother.

The roadside where Hannah's body was found. Picture: Times Live
The roadside where Hannah's body was found. Picture: Times Live

The family thanked everyone for their support and their tributes which proved what a "wonderful, loving and beautiful person Hannah was".

"She was an exceptional drama student. She just was a wonderful all round kid," Times Live reported.

In dramatic scenes were caught on CCTV, two men, Vernon Witbooi, 32, and Geraldo Parsens, 26, were arrested by police the next day, after a high speed pursuit of the Volkswagen Golf. Two more men have since been arrested.

Mr Witbooi and Mr Parsens have been charged with murder, kidnapping, rape, robbery with aggravating circumstances and motor vehicle theft. The other suspects will appear in court later this week.

University of Stellenbosch Rector Professor Wim de Villiers said: "Our campus community is shocked by this senseless death and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the student who lost her life, as well as the student who was injured."

Ms Cornelius's funeral service will be held on Friday.

News Corp Australia

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