State questions ‘fortuitous’ diagnosis of epilepsy in Van Breda case

12 February 2018 - 14:27 By Tanya Farber
Henri van Breda and his new  water-efficient look.
Henri van Breda and his new water-efficient look.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

The triple-axe murder trial of Henri van Breda dragged on for 63 days last year‚ but on Monday in the High Court in Cape Town‚ the state presented a neatly potted summary of why the defence's case was riddled with absurdities.

State prosecutor Susan Galloway‚ full of expression‚ led the court through Van Breda's calm and lengthy phone call to emergency services in the early hours of January 27‚ 2015‚ after four of his family members had been attacked with an axe.

She said that his lack of emotion on the phone was "not consistent with the nature of the crime" and was so alarming that the operator "thought it was a prank call".

She also emphasised all the evidence that countered the defence's claim that Van Breda had had a fit and was in a confused state.

She said that when emergency helpers arrived‚ Van Breda "was calm enough to direct them up the stairs and was not unfocused and distraught".

He knew "exactly what was going on"‚ she said.

Also‚ he made no attempt to "help or comfort" his family members‚ despite claiming that at that point‚ both his siblings (Rudi‚ who died‚ and Marli who survived) were still alive.

She said that the accused's descriptions of his brother Rudi "gurgling" on the bed were added as an afterthought to try to prove that Rudi was able to move so that the accused could deny he had dragged his brother across the floor.

Also‚ instead of calling emergency services first‚ he had tried to get hold of "his 16-year-old girlfriend who was living in a hostel at the time" even though she could be of no assistance in a life-or-death situation. Galloway then pointed to the fact there was no indication whatsoever of an outsider to the family "having a motive" to wipe them out‚ or of any indication that they had wanted to remove "valuables" from the home.

She questioned what she had called the "fortuitous" diagnosis of a form of a epilepsy during the dying days of the defence leading evidence in chief‚ and said the alleged "seizure" that he had on the night of the murders was something he could have fabricated since nobody else was a witness.

So‚ with no sign of an intruder on the estate‚ no motive for an outsider to kill the Van Breda family members‚ and no blood trails beyond the scene of the crime‚ how could it be that this was the work of an unknown intruder in a balaclava as painted in the picture by Van Breda himself?

Galloway led the court through the state's evidence that Van Breda's wounds - parallel‚ uniform‚ superficial and in reachable areas of his body - were self-inflicted‚ and said he had "more than sufficient time" to tamper with the crime scene after the bloody murders had been carried out.

She also rebuked several defence witnesses for not being "objective" and said that they simply tried to poke holes in the state's case without providing any credible evidence of their own to the contrary.

She also scathingly accused Van Breda of having a "selective memory" - recalling details where it suited him‚ retrofitting his story in light of what had already passed in court‚ and simply answering "I don't remember" or "I was scared" when the provision of any detail might work against him.

Galloway said this was proof that being "confused" after an alleged seizure was not in fact true at all‚ and that testifying after the other defence witnesses - which is highly unusual - was part of his strategy.

The case continues.

Henri van Breda appeared in the High Court in Cape Town for closing arguments in his triple-murder trial.


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