The verdict, read by Western Cape High Court judge Siraj Desai, marks the conclusion of a gruesome and shocking trial which made international headlines.
Earlier today, Desai accepted key testimony by Dr Marianne Tiemersma that triple axe-murder accused Henri Van Breda’s wounds were self-inflicted.
Van Breda will be spending his initial detention period at the Pollsmoor Prison Hospital , until a sentence has been handed down.
During the trial, Tiemersma testified that the wounds were almost textbook in nature as they were not life-threatening, were parallel, equal in depth, uniform in shape and found in areas away from sensitive areas such as the nipples.
Van Breda claimed that an altercation with an intruder caused the injuries, but Desai pointed out that his wounds were different to those inflicted on the rest of his family and had not been potentially fatal.
“There was no reason for an intruder with a balaclava to wipe out almost the entire family. Violence in the country does not serve as a convincing explanation.”
Desai has methodically been dismissing the defence’s arguments and Van Breda’s claims that a laughing, axe-wielding, balaclava-clad intruder, also armed with a knife, was behind the attacks.
He has dismissed the claim that a second intruder was there, as well as that a second axe could have been used and found that both the axe and knife used in the attacks came from the Van Breda household.
Van Breda faces three charges of murder for the January 2015 axe killings of his parents, Martin and Teresa, and brother Rudi, and a charge of attempted murder for the attack on his sister, Marli who was 16 at the time and could not testify as a result of retrograde amnesia. He faced a further charge of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly tampering with the crime scene and giving police false information.
Desai said the house, situated in the centre of the security estate De Zalze in Stellenbosch, had not been burgled, yet intruders would have had ample time to remove items from the ground floor. He also found there had been no breach of security.
Desai said it was “nonsensical” that an intruder wanting to steal would have gone upstairs to attack the sleeping family.
Van Breda had conceded that nothing valuable was missing and nothing had been tampered with.
He said Van Breda appeared “uncomfortable” at times during his testimony, but confident at others and even sarcastic at one point. He “did not show a great deal of emotion, even when he demonstrated the attack on his father and Rudi and the altercation he had with the intruder”.
Desai said the degree of violence had been excessive and the wounds were directed at the victims head, “a part of the body that has a high mortality rate”.
The attack on the accused had not been of the same intensity. Desai said Van Breda had conceded the attack on him had been more restrained.
One of the mysteries in the trial was the fact that Marli’s DNA was not found on the axe, but Desai accepted forensic analyst Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto’s assertion that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
“The fact that Marli’s blood could have been on the axe, but there was not enough to get a sample, cannot be ruled out.”
Van Breda appeared to be heavily medicated during judgement on Monday, at times struggling to stay awake.
Desai has agreed with the State’s argument that there was no security breach at De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch in the early morning hours of January 27, 2015.
Desai, in his summary judgement, said the conduct of the accused after the attack on his family was also “inexplicable”. His failure to get help immediately or comfort his sister while she lay severely wounded could not be explained.
Van Breda, he said, did not seek help from neighbours, security or emergency services – instead he phoned his girlfriend, a “minor living at a hostel”. The call made to her was at 4h27am, but he could not get hold of her. After a two-hour and 40 minute time lapse, he called emergency services, and spoke to the operator for 25 minutes.
Desai said: “The question is what transpired during that period of time and the significance of this?”
The judge said Henri van Breda’s demeanour was not consistent with a victim of trauma or someone who had just lost most of his family members.
Desai said he did not seek help from security officers on the estate, nor did he use emergency numbers that were listed on the fridge, and instead googled an emergency services number.
Van Breda claimed he lost consciousness which could explain the time loss – either from shock or from injuries sustained when he fell down the stairs, or from a combination of both.
He claimed that an intruder or intruders were behind the attack on his family.
– African News Agency (ANA)