Henri van Breda trial: An alleged South African triple axe murderer appears in court claiming he is not guilty of family members. But does his story add up?
Henri van Breda the 22 year old heir to a multi million dollar fortune has insisted he was not responsible for the slaughter of his Stellenbosh, Cape town parents and brother as the son appeared day one at a South African court pleading not guilty to triple axe murders.
The highly watched court appearance follows after prosecutors allege the son of murdering his father Martin and mother, Teresa, older brother Rudi along with attempting to kill his sister Marli on Jan. 27, 2015 at the upscale secured family home at De Zalze.
If acquitted, the son stands to inherit part of his family’s $15 million (USD) fortune they amassed from property deals while living in Perth, Australia.
Reading a detailed statement, van Breda’s defense lawyer Pieter Botha recounted the hours prior to the triple axe murders which involved a normal family evening which included dinner and a “Star Trek” movie.
Appearing in court, the son claimed he had gone to use the bathroom later that night when he ‘watched helpless’ through a crack in a bathroom door as a silhouetted man wielding an axe murdered family members.
Van Breda claimed a male intruder set upon his older brother in the early hours of the morning as he lay sleeping in his bed.
Van Breda said his shouts for help woke his 54-year-old father who turned on the light and ‘lunged at the attacker’ to defend his son, only to be ‘cut down’ by the intruder ‘who was laughing’ during the home intrusion.
From there the son claims the masked intruder targeted the sleeping figures of mother-of-three Theresa, 55, and schoolgirl Marli, according to the son’s defense lawyer Pieter Botha.
It was only after he had left four members of the wealthy family dead or dying, that the killer confronted the son who’d witnessed family member slayings.
Submitted statement described a life-and-death struggle during which the son claimed he was slashed and stabbed with a knife.
As his brother laying writhing and ‘gurgling’ on the nearby bed, Van Breda said he managed to wrestle the axe out of the killer’s hands and bludgeon him with it.
When the killer came at him with a knife, he fought back as the blade was plunged into his side in the violent struggle, he claims.
As his attacker fled down the stairs, Van Breda said he gave chase, throwing the axe again at him, before falling and injuring himself.
According to reports, Van Breda’s injuries were described by medical examiners as ‘superficial’ and ‘self inflicted’.
An ‘angry exchange’ of voices convinced him there was more than one intruder in the house, the court heard.
How the mystery masked intruder wearing a balaclava managed to navigate the family’s secured estate alarms and fences and break into the upscale family home was not explained by the defense.
Mitigating the son’s claims are police statements which told of Van Breda delaying calling for help for four hours after the murders because he did not know the number to dial.
The son said he called his girlfriend to get the number, but she failed to pick up.
After having a cigarette to ‘calm’ himself, he returned to the bloodbath upstairs before blacking out.
‘I could hear Rudi and saw Marli moving about next to my mum who was not moving,’ his statement read. ‘I then lost consciousness.’
He only woke some hours later when it was light, he claimed, whereupon he managed this time to successfully phone for help.
The first officer to arrive on the scene told the court how Van Breda ‘smelled strongly of alcohol’ when he came to the door and appeared ‘nervous, not crying, but emotional’.
Sergeant Adrian Kleynhans testified that a blood-smeared Van Breda said nothing about the attack on his family, and the house ‘didn’t fit with my experience of a crime scene’.
‘There was a laptop on the table, plugged into the wall, there was a handbag on the table. The TV was still there,’ the officer said.
At the time of the murders, no arrests were made. It wasn’t until the son submitted himself to authorities 18 months after the crime in June, 2016 that a first official arrest was made noted the bbc.
Van Breda was later released into the care of an uncle, and was barred from contacting his sister.
Since his arrest, van Breda, who was then a student, has been on $8,000 bail while living with his girlfriend reported skynews.
Submitted as evidence were the purported murder weapons, a large kitchen knife and an axe weighing 10lbs.
Of question is whether prosecutors will choose to have van Breda’s sister, Marli, a now 18 year old private school-girl give evidence or not. At present the sister is listed as a state witness against her brother.
Marli, the sole survivor and witness, reportedly remembers nothing about the night her throat was slashed and was left in a coma.
The siblings have had only supervised contact since the triple murder.
Controversy of the state’s case against the son comes as the father, Martin Van Breda amassed a fortune from property and other investments while living in Perth, Australia, for seven years.
Shortly before the murders, he moved back to South Africa with his family to cash in on a lucrative business deal.
Of note, the counsel representing the son included that of Mr Botha, who was on the team that secured an acquittal for Shrien Dewani, a British millionaire who was accused of ordering the assassination of his new bride during their 2010 honeymoon to Cape Town.
The court is expected to reconvene at the one-time family home where the massacre took place.
It was recently and quietly sold off for just over $500K (USD) little more than half of the going rate for such a coveted address noted the dailymail.
A property acquired by the family on Australia’s Sunshine Coast was also recently put up for sale for $2.4 million.
Whether Van Breda will inherit his parents wealth remains to be seen – as under South African law, no one convicted of killing can profit financially from their crimes.
Van Breda denies three charges of murder, one of attempted murder and one of perverting the course of justice.
— Tammy Petersen (@TammyPetersen87) April 24, 2017