CAPE TOWN, November 6 – Triple murder accused Henri Van Breda told the Western Cape High Court on Monday that he did not go to his family members after they had been viciously attacked with an axe, as he didn’t think he could help them.
Instead, he smoked three cigarettes one after the other at the kitchen counter in a bid to stay “calm” while on the phone to emergency services.
Van Breda has pleaded not guilty to murdering his father, Martin, brother Rudi and mother Teresa. His sister Marli, who was 16 at the time of the January 2015 attacks, survived but suffered severe head injuries and has retrograde amnesia.
During gruelling cross examination, Van Breda testified that if he thought he could have helped his family members he would have done so.
He explained to the court the time lapse of 2 hours and 40 minutes between making an unanswered call to his girlfriend and attempting to contact emergency services was because he had lost consciousness, possibly due to the “shock” of seeing his mother and sister at the top of the stairs.
Despite a list of emergency numbers up on the family’s fridge, including two 24-hour numbers, Van Breda googled the number for emergency services.
Senior prosecutor Susan Galloway said that when he got through to emergency services operator Janine Philander at 7.12am on the morning of January 27, 2015, he “remained calm while trying to assist her pinpoint her location”.
Van Breda told the court he was suppressing his frustration and thought their difficulty locating the family home in the security estate De Zalze was because they were having “technical issues”.
Philander testified earlier in the trial that she thought the call was a prank and that Van Breda had giggled.
Van Breda said he had tried his best not to show his agitation or anger. “In hindsight I should have been.”
As emergency services battled to pinpoint the location, Van Breda was kept on hold on the landline. During that time, he called his girlfriend from his cellphone five times.
“Why didn’t you use your cellphone to phone security,” Galloway asked.
Van Breda said he wanted to speak directly to emergency services and said he had called his girlfriend “just to speak to someone” and that she had been his only friend in South Africa at the time.
He also told the court that he told the emergency operator that his family had head injuries, as in Australia, where they had lived before returning to South Africa in 2014, they were taught at school that that would make emergency services immediately send an ambulance.
He testified that he did not console his family members as he had also been taught that “you could do more damage when it came to neck and head injuries”.
He agreed that he could have sat with them during his phone call to emergency services.
Galloway also pointed out that during the call to emergency services, he said “my family was attacked” and not “we have been attacked”.
Van Breda said he could have handled the call better.
“Listening to the call is agonising for me as things could have gone so much better.”
Earlier, Van Breda explained his injuries to the court, which state witnesses have described as “self-inflicted”. He said he was not sure how he sustained a bump to his forehead, but that it could have been from his fall down the stairs after he ran after the fleeing intruder. He also denied that scratches on his back had been caused by the sharp edges of the boys’ bedroom doorway and as a result of a struggle with his sister Marli.
He has also denied moving anything on the scene – the state believes he tampered with the crime scene to make it look like he too was a victim of the attack.
“You are aware that forensic experts for the state found no unidentified footprints or shoe prints, as well as no unknown fingerprints or foreign DNA. But what they did find was your father and Rudi’s DNA on your shorts, and your mother’s DNA on your socks.”
Van Breda and his brother Rudi’s DNA was found in the shower, but he denied the state’s contention that he washed blood away and instead said it could have been blood from cutting themselves while shaving in the shower.
A superficial stab wound on his upper torso had blood running straight down from it, but the flow would have changed direction, had Van Breda passed out for over two hours as he claimed, Galloway told the court.
She also said that Van Breda managed to disarm the attacker of the axe which had already been used on all his family members: “When you threw it after the attacker it had enough blood to leave a trail on the wall. But neither when you disarmed the attacker or struggled with him or hit him with the blunt side of the axe, none of the blood got on you.”
Galloway asked Van Breda to explain how the bottom of his socks were almost clean. Van Breda said: “What’s the issue with that?” and told the court he had not stepped on any blood.
Furthermore the second weapon, a knife found partially under his brother Rudi’s bed, “could have bounced there when I dropped it (during his struggle with the attacker) or it could have been pushed by Rudi when he was moving around.”
Van Breda’s duvet that ended up rolled up on top of a pool of blood “could only have been Rudi”, he told the court.
Galloway questioned how it was possible for blood spatter from his father and brother to end up on his shorts, when according to his version, he had been standing behind the attacker who would therefore have been in between him and his two family members.
Van Breda said: “He wasn’t necessarily in between me and the blood source.”
Blood spatter from his mother found on the toe of his right sock, could be explained by a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs which “I stepped around to get my cigarettes”.
Earlier, Triple murder accused Henri van Breda told the Western Cape High Court he wasn’t interested in explaining himself to the doctor who examined him after a brutal attack on his family in January 2015.
During cross-examination on Monday, Van Breda said he hadn’t told Dr Michelle van Zyl that he had lost consciousness for over two hours after the vicious axe attacks on his family that left his parents and brother dead, and his sister, Marli, fighting for her life.
Van Breda claims he fell down the stairs after throwing the axe, used in the murders, at the intruder. He explained that once the intruder or intruders had fled, he tried to call his girlfriend but the call when straight to voicemail. He then returned upstairs and lost consciousness, perhaps from the “shock” of seeing his dead mother and critically injured sister.
Two hours and forty minutes passed before he tried to contact emergency services, yet he failed to tell the doctor that information when he was examined at Vergelegen Medi-Clinic on the evening of January 27.
Senior prosecutor Susan Galloway said: “This event of you losing consciousness randomly, is it not to address the 2hrs 40minutes lost in the timeline?”
Van Breda insisted that was not the case.
Galloway again raised discrepancies between his plea explanation and initial police statement. “In your plea explanation you said you heard Rudi making gurgling sounds, and you said he was moving violently. In the statement you make only one reference to Rudi saying he was just lying there while being attacked.”
She put it to him that his later claim that his brother had been thrashing around on the bed, was in fact to fit in with blood spatter expert Captain Marius Joubert’s theory that Rudi had been “handled” on the scene as his body was not found on the bed, but was on the floor next to the bathroom door.
Van Breda told the court the police had “misrepresented” his words.
Galloway also questioned why he had not simply called emergency numbers that were on the fridge, and instead google searched them.
“I felt I would be doing more by finding the number myself,” he said.
Galloway further said he could have called neighbour Stephanie Op’t Hof and that she could have assisted by placing towels on his mother or Marli’s head to stem the bleeding. But Van Breda insisted he felt it would be better to “speak directly to the people who were going to help”.
He also felt contacting security officers at the security estate where they lived would have been “an indirect way of getting help”.
“In your version, you were still of the view that Marli and Rudi were alive. You saw Marli move and Rudi making sounds. Why didn’t you tell the emergency operator that two members of your family were still alive? You take the trouble of saying that your sister was still alive, but make no mention of your brother. Why didn’t you say two of them are still alive?” Galloway asked.
Van Breda said he couldn’t be sure but said he had asked for more than one ambulance.
“I thought I was doing the most I could.”
He told the court: “If I thought I could have helped them, I would have done so.”
Van Breda appeared to become emotional at that point and asked the court for a break to compose himself.
– African News Agency (ANA)