Van Breda trial to hear closing arguments

12 February 2018 - 06:00 By Tanya Farber
Axe-murder accused Henri van Breda and his lawyer, Piet Botha.
Axe-murder accused Henri van Breda and his lawyer, Piet Botha.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Henri van Breda returns to the dock in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday for the conclusion of his triple-axe murder trial.

Judge Siraj Desai is expected to hear closing arguments after a two-month hiatus which encompassed the third anniversary of the murders of Van Breda’s parents and brother‚ Martin‚ Teresa and Rudi‚ at their home in De Zalze‚ Stellenbosch‚ in January 2015.

Van Breda‚ 23‚ who has been in the dock for 63 days‚ is also accused of attempting to murder his younger sister‚ Marli. He denies all the charges.

Here are seven of the key issues defence counsel Piet Botha and prosecutor Susan Galloway are expected to deal with:

1. Van Breda’s defence team advised him not to testify but he insisted. He spent several days on the witness stand‚ remaining cool as Galloway and Desai questioned him.

2. He re-enacted what he claims was a confrontation with the alleged attacker. With a wooden replica of an axe in his hand‚ he portrayed the events of the night leading up to the moment he claims he overpowered the murderer and threw the axe at him.

3. Witnesses for the state said the cuts on his body were textbook examples of self-inflicted wounds: superficial‚ parallel‚ uniform and in reachable areas.

4. If Marli could remember anything‚ she would be the key witness: forensic evidence showed she put up a major fight against her attacker. But according to Galloway‚ she “made it very clear” that she did not want to take the stand. She is said to have retrograde amnesia.

5. The state found no unidentified fingerprints‚ footprints or foreign DNA on the scene. DNA from Rudi and Martin was found on Van Breda’s shorts.

6. In Van Breda’s version of events‚ there are 2hr 40min missing from the timeline. Late last year‚ he was diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy‚ and the defence said a seizure related to this diagnosis explained the missing time frame. The state called the diagnosis “fortuitous”.

7. Van Breda sat chain-smoking in the kitchen while waiting for emergency services after making a calm phone call that lasted several minutes. The state questioned his behaviour‚ while the defence said he was in a state of confusion after the alleged seizure.