Van Breda neighbour heard nothing on night of murders

24 October 2017 - 15:16
By Tanya Farber
Murder accused Henri van Breda
Image: Esa Alexander Murder accused Henri van Breda

One neighbour heard males having a massive fight a few hours before the Van Breda axe murders at 12 Goske Street at the De Zalze estate in Stellenbosch - while another heard “nothing at all”.

Earlier this year‚ Stephanie Op't Hof testified for the state in the Henri van Breda murder trial where he stands accused of axing his parents and brother to death.

She said she heard aggressive male voices engaged in a fight earlier in the evening before the murders‚ and was taken aback.

The sounds - the defence tried unsuccessfully to convince her - were actually the sound track of Star Trek 2.

On Tuesday in the High Court in Cape Town‚ another neighbour – put in the stand by the defence – said “she heard nothing” despite the fact that “sound carries easily” at the Stellenbosch estate.

Annelize Taljaard‚ who lived at number 14 Goske Street with her three children (two at school and one now at university)‚ said she was home that night of 26 January 2015.

She had heard nothing of a fight before heading to bed at her usual time between ten and ten thirty‚ and then got up as usual around 5am to go to have a swim.

It was only later that morning‚ after dropping her children at school‚ that she became aware something had gone wrong.

“I saw the ambulances and the police‚” she said‚ recalling the morning when news of the bloody murders spread across the highly fortified estate.

Under cross-examination‚ Taljaard conceded to Megan Blows for the state that there are several buildings between her house and that of the Van Bredas – including a garage‚ a double-storey house that was under construction‚ and a communal entertainment area.

Blows pointed to evidence that showed Taljaard would not be able to hear what was happening at the Van Breda house and that it stood to reason she would not have heard the fight either.

She pointed out that: “the accused claims he heard a sound so loud and strange that he was startled” just before he "saw Rudi (his brother) being hit with an axe"‚ and that he then ostensibly “shouted for help with the intent of drawing attention.”

Taljaard said she had not heard any of this.

Also‚ said Blows‚ “the accused claimed the attacker laughed on two occasions – did you hear such?” Taljaard said she did not.

“It is undisputed that three people died that night and one young lady was severely attacked as well. The fact that you didn't hear something doesn't mean something didn't happen‚” said Blows‚ “and the fact that you didn't hear anything doesn't mean Mrs Op't Hof didn't. Unlike you‚ she lived directly opposite the Van Bredas with no buildings in-between.”

Taljaard concluded her testimony by describing how safe everyone had always felt at De Zalze.

“You never think someone might be around. It doesn't cross your mind - so much so that I left my three children in the house and went for a swimming session.”

Straight after her‚ the security of the estate was raised again by the defence‚ this time with witness Charl Rabie - who owns an electric fencing company- in the witness stand.

Rabie said that electric fencing around the perimeter does not render the estate impermeable - not only because there are ways to bypass it‚ but also because "it won't kill you" if you get shocked.

State prosecutor Susan Galloway argued that Rabie neither installed nor maintained the system at De Zalze‚ and it came to light he didn't know the name of the system used there either.

The case was adjourned until Wednesday.