Van Breda the bizarre: The many faces of a family axe killer

08 June 2018 - 07:00 By Tanya Farber

The axe triple murder case that rocked South Africa has come to a close as Henri van Breda was sentenced to three life terms behind bars.

Perhaps he thought he would get away with it. Perhaps in his mind, he literally believes he didn’t do it.

Or perhaps he knew his fate was sealed when he was driven away in an ambulance on a warm January morning three years ago as the dead bodies of his parents and brother were carted away and his sister, barely still alive, was rushed off the scene and into the care of a surgeon who didn’t believe she would pull through.

It is impossible to say. But now that Henri van Breda is seeking leave to appeal both the judgment and the sentence handed down to him in the Cape Town High Court on Thursday, it is clear that he still won’t give up the ghost.

This is after a drawn-out trial of almost 70 days, legal fees in excess of R5-million, and a damning statement by the judge which leaves little wiggle room for this case going any further. He was given three life sentences.

If his demeanour in court is any sort of litmus test for how an accused feels about the potential success of his trial, Van Breda’s can only be described as a flatline with very occasional bumps. What is interesting, however, is that those brief flashes of the man behind the marble facade have definitely changed over the course of the trial.