The nature of the attacks on the Van Breda family had been “highly frenzied” and personal in nature, carried out with intent to kill. This is what “concerns” Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai as he weighs up the versions of the state and accused as the trial of triple murder accused Henri van Breda nears its end.
Defence advocate Piet Botha was delivering closing arguments on Tuesday in the sensational trial of 23-year-old Henri Van Breda, accused of murdering his parents, Martin and Teresa, and his older brother, Rudi.
His sister, Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, survived with serious injuries, resulting in retrograde amnesia, rendering her unable to testify in the trial.
Van Breda claimed a laughing, axe-wielding intruder, also armed with a knife, and wearing a balaclava and gloves was behind the vicious attacks.
Botha has insisted that this version is reasonably possibly true and has dismissed the state’s case, saying its evidence was of “poor quality” and that it had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
He was at pains to point out that crime is a daily occurrence in South Africa and argued that the “mere fact that there was gratuitous, terrible violence does not mean it can be inferred that it was someone close to them”.
Citing the example of a recent frenzied attack on two hikers in the mountains above Kalk Bay in which a man was stabbed to death he said: “Crime in our country regularly goes hand in hand with gratuitous violence.”
He said the family was close-knit and there had not been a history of problems in the family. “”Andre van Breda (the father’s brother) testified that the Van Breda Family was a normal, loving, close-knit family, all three children were well-mannered, and that he was not aware of any prevailing conflict or friction amongst them.”
He said his client’s version that he went to the toilet just after 4am to move his bowels, heard a noise and went to investigate without “the niceties of even wiping himself” is “more probable by far” than the state’s narrative.
He said the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that in fact his client had jumped up without wiping himelf, gone to fetch an axe and then wiped out his family”.
Botha also accused Dr Marianne Tiemersma of not being an objective witness. She testified during the trial that Van Breda’s wounds were self-inflicted as they were not life-threatening, were parallel, equal in depth, uniform in shape and found in areas away from sensitive areas such as the nipples.
“Dr Tiemersma was not an objective witness, there was an inherent informational bias.
“It would have been far better if she had been given photos and asked for her opinion. She was asked whether the injuries were self inflicted.”
Judge Desai said in “assaults of such magnitude one would expect some injuries on the perpetrator”.
But Botha contended: “We do have bloody footprints that haven’t been identified and 61 DNA samples that have not been identified”.
No foreign DNA was found on the scene.
Judge Desai said: “The narrative of the state is not a revelation”, to which Botha retorted “it’s not gospel either”.