Citizen Reporter
6 minute read
24 Apr 2017
12:25 pm

Update: Henri van Breda gives his version of family murders for first time

Citizen Reporter

Last month, the defence lawyer for Van Breda said his client was 'champing at the bit' to tell his version of events.

A “laughing” axe-wielding murderer was behind the brutal killings of the Van Breda family.

That’s according to 22-year-old Henri van Breda’s version of the events that claimed the lives of his mother, father and brother on January 27, 2015.

On Monday, Van Breda pleaded not guilty in the Western Cape High Court before Judge Siraj Desai. The courtroom was packed with journalists who were allowed to photograph the triple murder accused before court proceedings began.

Staring straight ahead, Van Breda appeared tired, but unruffled by the media attention.

Van Breda pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of defeating the ends of justice.

Instead, he claimed in his plea explanation, read into the court record by his lawyer Pieter Botha, that an attacker wearing a balaclava broke into their house on the security estate, De Zalze, in Stellenbosch.

His mother, Teresa, father Martin, and brother Rudi all died in the attack when they were set upon with an axe or “similarly sharp object”. Henri van Breda’s sister, Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, suffered a severe brain injury. She has since returned to school, but has retrograde amnesia and therefore remembers nothing of the events.

Judge Desai allowed the media to record Van Breda’s plea explanation, but camera operators were ordered out of the courtroom during the first tea break ahead of the first witness being called.

Earlier this month, Desai granted digital publishing house Media24 the right to broadcast live proceedings, but both the state and the defence appealed the decision.

That case is still to be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Until then, Desai’s earlier ruling has been suspended.

Van Breda’s plea explanation gave a summary of events that January night, as well as his family history.

Van Breda was the middle child, born in 1994. His older brother, Rudi, was born in 1992, while his sister Marli was born in 1998. All three siblings were born in Pretoria.

In 2006, they emigrated to Perth in Australia. Van Breda matriculated in 2012, by which time his brother was already studying mechanical engineering at Melbourne University.

In 2014, his parents moved back to South Africa as Martin van Breda had started a new company called Edugrow.

Henri van Breda moved back to South Africa to join his parents on a gap year in August 2014.

Describing his family as “fairly close-knit”, he said they enjoyed doing outdoor activities such as water skiing together.

His plea explanation detailed the run up to the attack, describing an ordinary family evening – dinner, and then a movie, Star Trek 2, that he watched with his father and brother.

After the movie, the family retired for the night. Rudi, who was home on holiday during the December break, and Henri shared a bedroom and initially stayed up on their laptops. Once Rudi was asleep, Henri watched an animated show.

He later went to the toilet and heard loud banging sounds. He opened the door and “could make out a silhouette, a person was attacking Rudi with axe”.

“I shouted for help hoping to attract attention.”

He claimed his father then came into the room and lunged towards the attacker. “The attacker was laughing. I heard my mother’s voice saying ‘what is going on?’”

The attacker, he claimed, seemed “unconcerned” about his presence.

He further claimed he wrestled the axe away from the man and was “surprised by how easily I disarmed him”.

The man also had a knife and cut and slashed at his chest, also slashing Van Breda’s left arm.

Van Breda said he managed to strike the attacker with the axe, and he then fled the room. Van Breda recalled his brother writhing on the bed. He also heard angry voices, speaking in Afrikaans.

Marli and his mother were lying on the landing.

Van Breda said he then fell down the stairs. He saw the kitchen door was open and believed there were at least two attackers.

He said he wanted to call emergency services, but had no idea of the number, so called his girlfriend instead. She did not answer.

He then found an emergency number, but twice failed to get through. He finally got through from the landline and tried to remain calm. He said he spoke calmly in case the operator did not understand his Australian accent.

He said he went outside to show the ambulance service where the house was. When police officers arrived, he said he told them to go upstairs.

Police took his clothes leaving him in his boxer shorts. His stab wounds were dressed.

Van Breda told the police he thought the intruder was a black person.

Police told the doctor attending to him that they thought his wounds were self-inflicted. At the police station, the airconditiong was turned up, so he was “freezing cold”.

He said the police officer told him he did not believe a word of his “bullshit story”.

Van Breda said by the time he signed his statement, he was exhausted and in shock and had not been warned of his rights.

“With the benefit of hindsight, they viewed me as a suspect soon after arriving on the scene. They used my statement as the basis for charging me. At no stage did any of the officers warn me I had the right to remain silent or say I could have legal representation. If I had known, I would have contacted lawyers.”

African News Agency (ANA)

Initial story: April 24, 2017, 11.39am:

Henri van Breda pleaded not guilty to the three murder charges and one attempted murder charge against him in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

Van Breda is accused of using an axe to kill his parents and older brother as well as severely injuring his sister during an attack at the family’s home in the Western Cape in January 2015.

ALSO READ: Van Breda trial postponed to April 24

EWN reports that Van Breda also faces a fifth charge of defeating the ends of justice. This was reportedly for allegedly tampering with the crime scene.

EWN further reports that on Monday, Van Breda pleaded not guilty to all of the five charges against him, and defence lawyer Pieter Botha detailed how the events of the night unfolded according to Van Breda, which included that the man who attacked his father was laughing.

It was further reported that Van Breda’s brother was first attacked, followed by his father and then mother and sister.

TimesLive further reported that raised voices were heard in the family home.

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