The Department of Correctional Services is investigating apparent prison Facebook posts by two of the people sentenced for the murder and rape of Hannah Cornelius and the brutal attack on her fellow student, Cheslin Marsh.
Spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo told News24 the department had received an enquiry about Vernon Witbooi and Geraldo Parsons’ Facebook activities, adding it was investigating the matter.
“But we also need to find the gadget that they used because cellphones or radio transmitters are not allowed inside [prison cells],” he said.
This follows a report on IOL that Cornelius’ cousin, Lila van Zuydam, had been alerted about the two prisoners’ Facebook activities, and after not hearing a word from the department following her complaint.
Van Zuydam told News24 that during Witbooi and Parson’s trial, Facebook activity had also been picked up while they were in custody, adding the department had dealt with it by shutting down their accounts.
She said the latest Facebook posts from behind bars were not only against prison rules, but also upsetting.
“How is it fair? It is really disrespectful towards my family and my uncle who also lost his wife.”
Cornelius’ mother, Anna, was found dead on Scarborough Beach less than a year after her daughter’s body was found on the morning of May 27, 2017, on the side of a road near a wine farm outside Stellenbosch. Marsh had survived the brutal assault.
A Facebook account for Witbooi was not visible on Thursday but an account in the name of Parsons was still up.
He stated that he was engaged, and his photographs were mostly of himself and his fiancée.
“Please just do something,” pleaded Van Zuydam of the department.
Nxumalo told News24 prisoners were offered an opportunity for further study and do have internet access if required via a computer hub.
However, an officer monitors real-time computer activity and shuts down any illegal activity immediately.
Social media is not allowed.
“The matter is being prioritised,” Nxumalo said.
Witbooi, Parsons and Eben van Niekerk were convicted on 10 charges, including kidnapping, rape and murder.
Their co-accused, Nashville Julius, was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping, as he had fled before his accomplices drove off with the students that night.
Cornelius and Marsh were attacked while sitting in a car and chatting in Stellenbosch.
Witbooi and Parsons were sentenced to life imprisonment for Cornelius’ murder, and life for her rape.
The pair received 25 years each for the attempted murder of Marsh, 15 years for four counts of robbery, and 10 years for the kidnapping of Marsh, Cornelius and Mimi October who encountered them while they were driving around in Cornelius’ car.
Van Niekerk received life sentences for Cornelius’ rape and murder, 20 years for each robbery, 10 years for kidnapping Marsh and Cornelius, eight years for kidnapping October, and 20 years for the attempted murder of Marsh.
Julius was handed 15 years for two counts of robbery and seven years for the students’ kidnapping. His sentences run concurrently.