Expert shows why Henri van Breda couldn't have thrown axe at 'killer'

14 September 2017 - 12:41 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

Henri van Breda looked on as a police blood spatter expert stepped out of the witness stand at the high court in Cape Town on Thursday and re-enacted a scene with a small but deadly axe.

Captain Marius Joubert was demonstrating why he thought it highly unlikely that Van Breda — accused of murdering his parents and brother — threw the axe at an alleged attacker‚ as claimed in his plea statement.

Earlier in the week‚ Joubert detailed nine inconsistencies between his findings and the plea statement‚ including whether the axe was thrown.

On Thursday‚ Joubert was locked in a battle about the laws of science with defence counsel Piet Botha‚ and eventually decided to physically demonstrate the point he was trying to make.

Throughout the trial‚ the defence has argued that marks on the wall of the family home at De Zalze in Stellenbosch showed that Van Breda’s description in his plea statement — that he was in a scuffle with an attacker in a balaclava and threw the axe at him on the stairwell — is possible. A ballistics expert for the state contradicted this‚ as did Joubert.

Botha said a defence expert had conducted an experiment with “his own blood” that showed it was possible from 1.5m away.

But‚ said Joubert‚ “volume‚ moment and the amount of blood all play a role”.

He said any experiment would require changing many variables‚ and from 1.5m the accused would surely have chosen to strike the attacker on his body rather than throw the axe at him.

“I can definitely say it is my opinion that that axe was not thrown‚” he said‚ adding that the “physical characteristics” had led him to that conclusion.

Botha replied: “Given that we know so little about too many variables in this scenario‚ we can’t come to a conclusion.”

Joubert disagreed‚ saying: “You can test it with different variables and you can still make some conclusion from that experiment – it will indeed be possible to make some conclusions.”

Botha would not concur‚ and that is when Joubert left the witness stand to show how close Van Breda would have been to his attacker at that point.

Marks on the wall would place Van Breda near the attacker‚ which would have made striking him much more simple and logical than throwing the axe.

Botha‚ outraged by the demonstration‚ said: “He is creating a false impression.” But Judge Siraj Desai said: “It is not for you to determine if he is creating a false impression or not – all you can say in this case is that you disagree with the impression he is creating.”

The case continues.