CAPE TOWN, June 5 – Marli Van Breda has to grow up alone with the knowledge that her own brother killed her family.
This and the fact that 23-year-old Henri Van Breda has shown no remorse was the crux of the State’s argument in aggravation of sentencing. Van Breda has been convicted of the brutal axe murders of his parents and older brother as well as the attempted murder of his sister Marli who was just 16 years old at the time.
The January 2015 murders at the Van Breda family home in the De Zalze security estate in Stellenbosch shocked South Africans, with the 66-day trial regularly making national and even international headlines.
Throughout the trial, Van Breda maintained his innocence, claiming instead that a laughing, axe-wielding attacker, also armed with a knife, was behind the murders.
Senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway said Marli had survived the attacks, not because of any mercy on the part of the accused, but rather because of “a miracle”.
She said Henri van Breda’s lengthy conversation with emergency services, despite knowing his severely injured sister was still alive, showed he was “in no hurry to get medical help” and was an indication of the cold-blooded nature of the attacks.
“There is no remorse, he does not show sympathy for his sister,” she told the court on Tuesday.
“She has lost everything and nothing will ever be the same again for her. Despite her age, she tried to ward off her attacker vigorously. She has to go through life with the knowledge that her brother killed her whole family and tried to kill her. The same brother who said she was treated like a princess.”
Galloway said the state had decided not to hand in a victim impact report after consulting with Marli and her lawyer in the interests of her privacy.
Defence lawyer Piet Botha handed in a report compiled by Nicro (National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders) social worker Ariena Smith.
Smith counselled Van Breda during the trial and described him as “open and honest”.
She said he had been guarded at times and didn’t show emotion easily.
The report said Van Breda spoke highly of his mother the “nurturer”, who was his primary attachment figure. He was close to his father as well who was an intellectual, but was “not good with his emotions”.
He often sought advice from his brother and had a normal sibling relationship with his sister whom he sometimes argued with. According to the report, he was emotional when he was no longer allowed to see his sister after his arrest in June 2016.
He said his sister was treated as a princess, and that he often gave her her way. The report also stated that his relationship with his girlfriend had been ongoing for over two years.
There was also no history of mental illness in the family, Van Breda did not present with delinquent problems as a child, and had no previous convictions.
Botha, reading from the report, said he was “always calm in counselling and was forthcoming and engaging in the therapeutic process, but found it emotionally difficult to cope with the deaths of his family members”.
Furthermore, he did not appear emotionally disconnected, as he had been portrayed in the media.
Botha conceded that his client showed no remorse, and could not furnish Judge Siraj Desai with a motive for the crimes when pressed to do so.
Desai said he wanted to at least consider any mitigating circumstances when considering sentence, but Botha said he could argue nothing more than the youthfulness of the accused and the fact that he had no prior convictions, as his client still maintained his innocence.
Galloway said it could not be argued that he was immature at the time, or that he was addicted to drugs and called for the minimum sentence of life to be imposed.
For the attempted murder, she said no minimum sentence was prescribed, but asked the court to consider that Marli’s injuries were usually fatal and that he had attacked her with the intent to kill.
“The accused was on his own evidence part of a close knit family with no financial problems, they all had bright futures ahead of them. He executed the attack when his family were most vulnerable after they went to bed.”
Galloway said Van Breda had never been open with the court, and as a result a motive had never been established.
Desai said he needed several days to consider his sentence and will hand it down on Thursday.
Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai will hand down sentence in the trial of convicted axe murderer Henri Van Breda on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old was last month convicted of three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of defeating the ends of justice for the brutal attack on his family in January 2015 that left his parents and older brother dead, and his sister severely injured.
The attack happened in the early hours of the morning of January 27, 2015, at the Van Breda family home in the centre of a Stellenbosch security estate, De Zalze.
Van Breda claimed that at least one, possible two intruders, were behind the murders. He claimed that a laughing, axe-wielding intruder, wearing dark clothing, a balaclava and gloves was behind the bludgeoning attack on his family.
But Western Cape High Court judge Siraj Desai dismissed his version, and said it was “nonsensical” that intruders would have entered the family home, and fled without taking anything.
He said the attacks on the family members were carried out with the intent to kill.
Van Breda had his bail revoked when he was convicted on May 21 and the judge granted a request to have him kept in the hospital section of Pollsmoor prison so that he could have access to medication for depression and epilepsy.
The hospital section, generally regarded as safe in comparison to being kept in the general prison population, did not protect Van Breda from an attack by fellow prisoners, according to weekend reports.
He was allegedly attacked by five prisoners, and rescued by a fellow inmate who ripped a metal condom dispenser off the wall to fend off the attackers.
The question of Van Breda’s safety in prison, is likely to be raised by his lawyers on Tuesday who reportedly believe he will be a target in prison.