Triple murder accused Henri van Breda. PHOTO: Catherine Rice/ANA

In The News South Africa

Triple-murder-accused Breda diagnosed with epilepsy

CAPE TOWN, November 13 – Triple murder accused Henri van Breda spent the weekend at Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic, a private hospital in Cape Town, where he was diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy after a series of medical tests.
On Monday, defence lawyer Piet Botha told the Western Cape High Court that his 23-year-old client had a seizure on Wednesday last week and was hospitalised on Thursday and was seen by neurologist Dr James Butler.
Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) is an inherited genetic syndrome. According to wikipedia, episodes are characterised by involuntary muscle twitching that do not usually result in the person falling, “but rather dropping objects”.
“Other seizure types such as generalized tonic-clonic (GTCs) and absence seizures can also occur”. It also said generalised GTCs are usually triggered by sleep deprivation.
Onset of the symptoms is usually between age 10 and 16, but can present in some patients in their twenties.
The defence was due to call a psychologist on Monday, but proceedings were postponed to give her time to amend her report if she deemed it necessary, as she has not yet had sight of the neurologist’s report.
Judge Siraj Desai said ethical issues may arise, however, as the neurologist, Dr James Butler, had been a potential state witness whom they ultimately did not call, but had consulted.
Judge Desai will have to decide, after listening to arguments from both sides, whether he can be called. But Botha urged the court to call him if the defence’s request is turned down as the doctor’s testimony is “relevant to the 2 hours 40 minutes”, a time lapse, that has been highlighted in the trial.
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.
Van Breda claims that an intruder, armed with an axe and knife, and wearing dark clothing, a balaclava and gloves was behind the attacks. He said, in his plea explanation, that during the pursuit of the attacker he lost his footing and fell down the stairs. He added: “I do not know what made me fall, but my fall was quite severe.”
After the attacker fled, and trying to phone his girlfriend without success, the accused said he went up the stairs, where he could hear his brother Rudi in the bedroom. On the middle landing towards the top, he saw Marli moving, while his mother was not moving.
“I then lost consciousness. I am unsure whether this was due to shock or to the injuries that I sustained when I fell down the stairs, or a combination of both.”
He has also explained to the court that he did not go to his family members when he regained consciousness, 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.
The psychologist who will take the stand on Tuesday is expected to explain his inaction to the court.
Senior state prosecutor Susan Galloway said she did not object to the psychologist’s testimony, but would argue what weight should be attached to it.
Court proceedings will resume on Tuesday.

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