Van Breda ‘did not show a great deal of emotion’ during trial - judge

21 May 2018 - 14:51 By Tanya Farber
Van Breda‚ with heavy black circles around his eyes‚ could not keep his eyes open in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday as Desai moved carefully from one point to the next.
Van Breda‚ with heavy black circles around his eyes‚ could not keep his eyes open in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday as Desai moved carefully from one point to the next.
Image: Esa Alexander

A verdict is still to come after the lunch break but‚ so far‚ the summary judgment statement in the Van Breda triple murder trial has been a damning one for the accused‚ whom Judge Siraj Desai said showed almost no emotion - "even when demonstrating the fatal blows to his family members" by an alleged intruder.

Henri van Breda‚ 23‚ has spent 66 days on trial for the murder of his parents and brother‚ the attempted murder of his sister Marli‚ and defeating the ends of justice.

Van Breda‚ with heavy black circles around his eyes‚ could not keep his eyes open in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday as Desai moved carefully from one point to the next.

Desai said that Van Breda had "become emotional from time to time" during the trial - which was "to be expected" but that in general‚ he "did not show a great deal of emotion when he demonstrated the fatal blows to his family members" by an alleged axe-wielding attacker.

The judge said Van Breda "was the only person alive who could remember what had happened"‚ but had "sarcastically responded that he had had no idea who the attackers were".

He then also touched on the issue of a possible second axe used on the crime scene‚ but - after going through the testimonies of a domestic worker and two young friends of the family - said the court had come to the conclusion that the chances were "virtually nil" that a second axe had been used at the crime scene and that the lack of Marli's blood on the axe did not mean she had not been attacked with that axe.

He emphasised that forensic pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony had described the types of injuries on Marli's head as being "highly similar to those sustained by the other family members" and that "it is highly unlikely the alleged attacker would have brought along an axe similar to the one in the family home".

Desai also refuted the defence's claim that the lack of Marli's blood on Van Breda's shorts or socks proved that she may have been attacked by a second attacker using a difference object.

"The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence‚" said Desai‚ adding that "one could strike someone with an axe without a single drop of blood" resulting.

Marli had five very deep lacerations on her skull and on other parts of her body and‚ according to blood expert for the state Marius Joubert‚ the fact that the injuries "were not close together" could explain why there was no blood on the shorts or socks.

Desai concluded on this point: "The court is satisfied that exhibit one is the only axe used during the commission of these crime and that it belonged to the Van Breda household".

He added that if the intention of an alleged intruder was to kill the family‚ he would more likely have brought his own weapon‚ whereas using an axe already in the house would amount to "strange behaviour by a random assailant".

He also said "no evidence exists to indicate any motive for killing decent family members whether they were killed by an unknown intruder or not".

Desai then also considered the evidence of neighbour Stephanie Op't Hof who was "adamant" that the aggressive male voices she heard on the night of the attackers were not that of the soundtrack of a Star Trek movie as claimed by the defence‚ and Desai said he considered Opt' Hof to be a highly reliable witness.

He then moved onto the issue of whether Van Breda's wounds were self-inflicted or not.

He recalled the evidence of Dr Marianne Tiemensma and Dr Johan Dempers who had both described the "parallel‚ superficial and uniform" wounds on Van Breda's body as being "textbook examples of self-inflicted wounds". He said that Dr Tiemensma had conceded that it was sometimes difficult to ascertain if wounds were self-inflicted‚ but that in this case‚ she had no doubt whatsoever.

Before announcing the lunch break‚ Desai said‚ "If the court accepts that some of the injuries were self-inflicted‚ the accused's credibility will be seriously affected."

The case continues after lunch when the verdict is likely to be announced.

Experts in the Henri van Breda case give us their predictions in the Henri van Breda judgment as well as tell us why this case has captivated South Africans.

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