CAPE TOWN, May 10 – The trial against Henri van Breda entered its ninth day on Wednesday with, for the first time, a family member taking the stand.
Cornelius Andries van Breda is the brother of Martin van Breda and warmly embraced his nephew before testifying against him.
He described the Van Breda family as “loving” and told the court he enjoyed visiting them.
In a rare show of emotion, Henri van Breda wiped away a few tears as his uncle described how proud he was of his family.
The 22-year-old faces three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly axing his family to death on January 27, 2015, in their family home on the upmarket security estate, de Zalze in Stellenbosch.
His sister, Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, survived, but suffered a severe brain injury and has retrograde amnesia.
Henri’s uncle, who is one of twins, told the court that he enjoyed a close relationship with his brother and could not recall an incident where they had been angry with each other.
When Henri was about ten years old, he had lived with the family for about three or four months in Pretoria.
He said there were never fights in the house.
Van Breda told the court of his brother’s achievements, describing him as an excellent student with a photographic memory who graduated from Stellenbosch University cum laude.
He later left a plum job to start his own business which became very successful. He told the court his brother never boasted about his success.
The family moved to Perth in Australia in 2006, and Martin would return to South Africa every three or four months and stay for three or four weeks.
Van Breda testified that his brother had no enemies, personally or in business, and treated his employees well.
He said the family moved back to South Africa in January or February 2014, as Teresa van Breda was unhappy and wanted to be close to her family. Henri stayed on in Australia where he was studying at university.
Martin, he told the court, also wanted to expand his business, Edugrow, which was very strong and had cash accounts.
He insisted his brother had no enemies.
Two weeks before the murders, Van Breda saw his brother in Pretoria. “There was no mention of any problems at home, there was no sign of anything wrong.”
After the murders, Van Breda, his twin brother, their wives, and Teresa’s brother visited the family home as Marli wanted some of her personal belongings.
A forensic team had already cleaned the house.
Van Breda said his nephew was there and wanted a bottle of expensive Japanese whiskey he had bought for his father. He also asked for some bottles of red wine.
He testified that nothing was missing from the house. A list of items that police had taken with his permission, were returned. They included cash, handbags and jewellery.
During cross examination, defence lawyer Pieter Botha Botha told the court Henri had not wanted to go into the house and had waited in a car outside. He asked his cousin to get some of his possessions.
Van Breda said they had been at the house twice and recalled Henri being there on one of those two occasions.
He remembered Henri going to sit in the car while Marli’s clothes were being packed.
He accepted that the reason Henri wanted the whiskey was because it had sentimental value as he had bought it for his father in Australia and they would share it with Rudi, Henri’s brother who was also killed in the attack.
Domestic worker, Precious Munyongani, who had been working for the family three days a week for four months prior to the murders, also testified.
She told the court that the axe used as the murder weapon had been on a shelf in the scullery of the family home.
She said the one shown to her in photos looked exactly the same as the one on the shelf. A knife, the state believes was also used in the murders, was also similar to knives kept at the family home.
Munyongani, speaking through an interpreter, testified that she told police a set of knives that looked the same as the one used in the attacks “was kept in the drawer where the spoons were also kept”.
– African News Agency (ANA)