Police fear Marli may never be able to tell of axe attack

22 February 2015 - 02:00 By SHANAAZ EGGINGTON
CRITICAL: Marli van Breda, 16, has undergone surgery after sustaining serious head injuries in an attack on her family in their Stellenbosch home. Her mother, father and a brother were killed. File photo
CRITICAL: Marli van Breda, 16, has undergone surgery after sustaining serious head injuries in an attack on her family in their Stellenbosch home. Her mother, father and a brother were killed. File photo
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Marli van Breda's head injuries are so serious that police are worried she may never be able to tell them what happened on the night her family were massacred.

It has been nearly a month since the horrific murder at the exclusive De Zalze Golf Estate in Stellenbosch, and relatives have yet to be allowed to see her.

The 16-year-old, who survived a horror axe attack in which her parents, Martin and Teresa, and her 22-year-old brother, Rudi, were killed, was struck on the head several times during the attack.

Her injuries could cause permanent brain damage.

Without her statement, police will have to rely on forensic evidence collected from the scene to secure an arrest and conviction.

Marli's 20-year-old brother, Henri, was the only other survivor of the January 27 attack.

A doctor who examined him after the attack said the cuts and bruises he sustained on his arms were self-inflicted. It is also believed Henri was addicted to tik and that his allowance had been cut off shortly before the attacks.

Keeping Henri Away

Sources said this week that the main reason no one had been allowed to visit Marli in hospital was to keep Henri away.

"They fear she might go into shock, or will be traumatised further if she sees him," the source said.

The Sunday Times has established that the three paramedics who treated Marli and declared Martin, Teresa and Rudi dead on the scene have not yet returned to work. They were severely traumatised by what they discovered in the house and are still receiving counselling, according to colleagues, who said the scene was one of the bloodiest they had ever seen.

Marli's head and neck are still heavily bandaged, and although she is awake and aware, her interaction with her medical team is very limited.

She mumbles and cries when she looks at pictures of her parents and elder brother.

"It is heartbreaking to see tears rolling down her cheeks," said a person close to her, who asked not be named due to restrictions on speaking to the press.

Marli's condition is improving. She has been moved out of the ICU section of Mediclinic Vergelegen in Somerset West and this week she began moving both sides of her body, allying fears of total paralysis.

But police are concerned that, mentally, she may not recover enough to give a detailed and credible account of the night of the attack.

This will mean forensic evidence will play a crucial role in the case. Various tests are under way, including those involving blood-spatter patterns and DNA.

These tests are likely to take several months due to backlogs at police forensic laboratories.

Marli receives physiotherapy twice a day to keep her muscles active and prevent bedsores.

A social worker is counselling her, but the teen gets tired very quickly.

 

Meanwhile, Henri is keeping a low profile. He has not been seen in public since the memorial service for his parents and brother in Pretoria two weeks ago.

Family spokesman Ben Rootman said Henri was living with an uncle in Stellenbosch and was receiving counselling.

He said Henri was being "monitored", but refused to say why.

"Marli continues to improve day by day. Doctors confirmed that there is movement on both sides of her body," he said.

"She cannot talk yet, but she shows emotion and seems to recognise the faces of her family members on the pictures that have been put on her wall."

Rootman confirmed that no one in her family had seen her yet.

"We have a world-class team looking after her, and we follow their instructions. They believe it is in her best interest not to receive visitors just yet," he said.

Legal Counsel

The family have hired advocate Pieter Botha, who was Shrien Dewani's legal counsel.

Meanwhile, the department of health has launched an investigation into the leaking to the media of Henri's emergency call.

A team from the department's internal investigations unit arrived at the emergency centre at Tygerberg Hospital on Wednesday and confiscated several computers.

The investigation is expected to be concluded this week, and several employees face the chop if found guilty.

Department spokesman Mark van der Heever said: "Upon becoming aware of the alleged leak, the department immediately referred the matter to the independent provincial forensic investigative unit for handling.

"Any breach of confidentiality is regarded in a very serious light and the department is treating this matter with urgency.

"We expect provisional findings within the next 10 days. The outcome of the report will determine the appropriate disciplinary course of action."

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said: "Once we are in a position to share any new developments, this office will make an official announcement."

eggingtons@sundaytimes.co.za