CAPE TOWN, September 13 – The defence has cast doubt on the state’s case that only one axe was used in the murders of Teresa, Martin and Rudi van Breda, as well as the attempted murder of Marli van Breda.
Henri van Breda claimed that he was not behind the brutal murders that took place in the family home at the luxury de Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch on January 27, 2015.
In his plea explanation, he said a laughing, axe-wielding intruder wearing dark clothing, gloves and a balaclava was responsible for the attacks.
“I also recall hearing what sounded like angry voices of more than one person, somewhere else in the house. Although I could not distinguish specific words, it sounded like the persons were speaking Afrikaans,” he recalled.
On Wednesday, defence lawyer Piet Botha highlighted the fact that Marli’s blood had not been found on the axe used in the killings of her parents and brother. Furthermore, no trace of her blood was found on his client’s shorts or socks.
This would support Henri’s version that he was not near his sister Marli when she was attacked, as well as the possibility that a second axe and more than one intruder was behind the attack.
Cross-examining police captain Marius Joubert, a bloodstain expert, Botha said despite eight swabs taken from the axe – four from the handle and four from the blade – “not a single drop of Marli’s blood was found”.
Teresa, Martin and Rudi’s DNA were all found on the axe, as well as on Henri’s shorts and socks.
According to evidence from a previous state witness, forensic pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony, Marli’s injuries were described as very similar to those of the deceased members of her family. She, too, had been hit repeatedly with an object very similar to an axe, and had suffered injuries on her head, neck and ear.
Botha said evidence indicated that she had injuries indicative of a struggle and demanded to know Joubert’s explanation for the complete absence of her DNA or blood on the axe.
He also pointed to the fact that James Reade-Jahn, Marli’s boyfriend at the time, had testified that he had not recognised the axe as the one kept in the Van Breda’s pantry.
Senior state prosecutor Susan Galloway objected and told the court that Reade-Jahn had said the size and shape was similar but that he may have been mistaken about the colour of the head of the axe.
Joubert testified that Marli’s injuries had been spread out. “If you hit a person on different areas, the chance of transferring blood onto the blade is minimal”.
He also said there was a possibility the axe had been cleaned.
“They were all struck multiple times. When you use the axe on another person, blood is dispersed or projected off the blade.”
But Botha said the forensic pathologist had testified that in reference to Marli and Teresa’s injuries, blood would have started gathering quickly. They would have bled profusely as the injuries were in the scalp area.
Botha said while Marli’s touch DNA was found on the handle of the axe, it could have been during this incident or before. And in accordance with the Locard principle which says every touch leaves a trace, “in light of that, what are the chances that Marli who sustained multiple injuries to her skull, one ear and neck, what are the chances of her blood not being found?”, he asked.
Joubert conceded that “you would have expected to find some traces” but said that Marli’s touch DNA found on the handle, could have resulted from her grabbing the axe during the incident.
But Botha said that still did not explain whether the same axe used on Teresa, Martin and Rudi had been used on her.
“If Marli was attacked with another axe that would explain the absence of her blood.”
But Joubert countered: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” He said it was possible to assault a person and not have a single drop of blood left on you.
The trial against axe murder-accused Henri van Breda resumes in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
He faces three charges of murder, one of attempted murder and one of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly killing his mother, father and brother, and seriously injuring his sister.
On Tuesday, the court heard that bloodstains found at the Van Breda family home did not support Henri van Breda’s police statement.
Police bloodstain analyst, Captain Marius Joubert, told the court that Henri van Breda’s version of events was inconsistent with blood spatter patterns found at 12 Goske street in the luxury estate de Zalze in Stellenbosch. He found evidence that led him to believe the crime scene had been staged after the murders.
Twenty two-year-old Henri van Breda is facing three charges of murder for the alleged axe killings of his mother, Teresa, father, Martin and brother Rudi. He also faces a charge of attempted murder for allegedly attacking his sister Marli, who was 16 years old at the time. She survived the attack, but suffered severe brain injuries and cannot recall the events of January 27, 2015, rendering her unable to testify. Henri also faces a charge of defeating the ends of justice.
Joubert placed Henri close to the victims. “Bloodstains on his shorts and socks, show he was in close proximity to Rudi and Martin during the attacks.” Joubert said Henri had also not explained why the duvet had been moved from his bed or why Rudi’s body had been moved.
Senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway raised discrepancies between Henri’s plea explanation and police statement, but defence lawyer Piet Botha objected saying that was up to the court to determine.
– African News Agency (ANA)