Eben van Niekerk wrote a letter of apology to the family of Hannah Cornelius in May 2017. However, he’s now distanced himself from the document.
We are well into the second week of the Hannah Cornelius trial, as the state shapes its case against the four men accused of the Stellenbosch student’s murder.
IOL report that one defendant, Eben van Niekerk, said he “did not know why he was arrested” on Tuesday.
Hannah Cornelius trial latest: “Sorry, not sorry”
Vernon Witbooi, Geraldo Parsons and Nashville Julius are also in the dock, accused of raping the 21-year-old before killing her. There’s also a fifth suspect who is not on trial – referred to as “k*****tjie” by the group – and is yet to be found.
It was van Niekerk who made the headlines on Tuesday, however. The prosecution presented a letter of apology that he penned after being arrested in May 2017. In the message, he says he’s sorry for what he did and asks for forgiveness, before pleading with Hannah’s parents: “Don’t be angry at me, please.”
Eben van Niekerk apology letter
However, van Niekerk claimed on Tuesday that the letter had no sincerity to it, and stated that he was coerced into writing it under the belief it would “help his case”.
As reported by DispatchLive, The accused told the court that Stellenbosch police officer Sergeant Steven Adams advised him to apologise to the family. Van Niekerk thought the letter would only be seen by the state – who would use the document to consider his remorse.
But you can forget about any of that. The defendant went on to protest his innocence once again, alleging that he was nowhere near the crime scene when Hannah Cornelius was brutally killed.
The official version of events is that, while being taken into custody in the back of a police van, van Niekerk heard a news bulletin regarding the murder. He asked if he was in “big trouble”, before requesting a pen and paper when he was put in his cell.
The accused disputes this version of events, claiming the radio wasn’t even on. The highly-charged trial continues on Wednesday, with the validity of letter set for more intense scrutiny.