Police blood expert grapples with mystery of Marli van Breda's missing blood

13 September 2017 - 13:54 By Tanya Farber
Murder accused Henri van Breda in the Western Cape High Court.
Murder accused Henri van Breda in the Western Cape High Court.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Just like her own memory of that fateful night‚ bloody evidence of the attack on Marli van Breda in the triple-axe murder case is missing.

Two major questions hung over the trial of Henri van Breda in the high court in Cape Town on Wednesday: why was none of Marli’s blood or DNA found on the head of the axe allegedly used to attack her? And why was none of her blood found on the shorts and socks of the accused?

On Tuesday‚ police blood spatter expert Captain Marius Joubert described how blood from the other family members on Van Breda’s socks and shorts indicated he was far closer to the “blood-shedding” events than he made out in his plea statement.

At least nine inconsistencies came to light on Tuesday between the blood evidence and Van Breda’s plea statement.

While Van Breda looked crestfallen as Joubert testified on Tuesday‚ he smiled on Wednesday as his defence counsel‚ Piet Botha‚ repeatedly asked Joubert about the absence of Marli’s DNA or blood on the axe and the accused’s clothing.

Marli was left for dead when her parents and brother were hacked to death with an axe at their luxury home in Stellenbosch in January 2015.

However‚ Joubert testified by referring to a principle which says “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”.

He said it was possible that the nature of Marli’s injuries – lacerations spread out over her neck and head – were not as prone to major blood-shedding as those sustained by her deceased family members‚ who were hit repeatedly in the same places on their heads.

Botha said: “No blood or DNA of Marli was found on my client’s shorts or socks. And similarly‚ on the weapon‚ not a single drop of her blood was found.”

He said post-mortem examinations revealed that Marli had injuries “described as being similar to those of the deceased”‚ so why did none of her blood show on the axe?

Joubert said the nature of her lacerations would make her bleeding different. “You have to get blood to the surface to transfer it onto an axe. The first blow will create trauma to the tissue‚ but only if you strike in the same place will it bring blood.

“If you hit once in different areas‚ the chances of transferring blood onto the weapon are actually minimal. There are so many variables – including whether it is soft tissue being hit or not.”

It has also come up in the trial before that Marli put up a major fight against her attacker‚ locked in a struggle to protect her life.

Her brother Rudi and father Martin were caught unaware‚ according to state witnesses‚ and her mother Teresa was facing her attacker but went down quickly.

This could explain why her injuries were more spread out‚ and why lacerations more likely to cause profuse bleeding onto the axe did not occur in her case.