Columns 19.6.2017 12:20 pm

If Henri did it, why did he do it?

Murder accused Henri van Breda during day 26 of his of trial at the Western Cape High Court June 13, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. Henri Van Breda is accused of the brutal murders of his parents and brother, and the attempted murder of his sister in 2015. The case was postponed to 07 August, 2017. Picture: Gallo Images

Murder accused Henri van Breda during day 26 of his of trial at the Western Cape High Court June 13, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. Henri Van Breda is accused of the brutal murders of his parents and brother, and the attempted murder of his sister in 2015. The case was postponed to 07 August, 2017. Picture: Gallo Images

Who knows or can say what might go on behind the high walls and gated communities of the rich?

It’s uncanny to listen to the emergency call Henri van Breda made when he requested ambulances to come pick up the lifeless bodies of his axed family members.

He gives a little laugh and then calmly asks for ambulances to be sent.

I’ve shown more interest and emotion while ordering a pizza. Have a listen below if you haven’t heard it yet.

Granted, I’ve never had my parents and siblings axed to death, or nearly to death, before, so I can’t say whether it’s normal to sound so dispassionate in the wake of one of life’s most unimaginable horrors, and maybe the young man was really just in shock. Shock does weird things, but the woman who took Henri’s emergency call thought he was pranking her.

She said that, in all her time of answering emergency calls, no one had ever phoned and spoken so calmly after experiencing a violent event. None, certainly, had ever laughed.

That’s why she comes across as so casual in the recording, which she’s been unfairly criticised for.

As yet, no verdict has been reached on whether young Henri is the person who repeatedly stuck an axe into the heads of everyone in his house in the early hours of Tuesday, January 27, 2015. However, there’s precious little evidence to suggest someone else did it.

For starters, there was a suspiciously long delay between Henri’s initial unsuccessful calls and messages to his then girlfriend and him finally calling the cops. He claimed to have passed out on the stairs, though experts don’t think such a long period of unconsciousness is possible.

Traces of blood were also found in a bathroom at the De Zalze house and experts have called Henri’s ruler-straight, superficial injuries typical of self-inflected wounds. He’s also been charged with tampering with the crime scene.

There are numerous other details one could mention that might lead you to conclude that Henri’s version – that a laughing, balaclava-clad man or men broke into his house and axed everyone except Henri – should be treated with some scepticism.

Despite the evidence, though, the judge may still of course decide there’s reasonable doubt that Henri was – in a word – framed by some axe-murdering weirdo.

But if he did do it, then why? So far, it seems likely we will continue to be haunted by this “why?”

Why would a young man living a supremely privileged life (he stands to inherit millions from the estate if found innocent), do such a thing? It’s a question few people seem keen to ask, because it’s just such a weird situation.

Could it be there was some dark and troubling secret in the Van Breda home that we may never learn the truth of? It would have to be the kind of thing that would drive a young man to murder, such as a lifetime of abuse at the hands of a parent (it could have been any kind of abuse: physical, emotional or sexual).

Who knows or can say what might go on behind the high walls and gated communities of the rich?

Something like that may explain why Henri ultimately allowed his sister Marli to live, despite the horrendous injuries she suffered. The phone call makes it clear he was aware she was still alive. It could also be that Marli remembers more than she is now letting on, but has decided to keep the family secrets, and perhaps sympathises with her brother despite it all.

Obviously, I don’t know. But I wonder if someone does.

Was it simply an argument with his brother or father that just got out of hand?

Most of the people I’ve spoken to surmise that Henri must have been high or drunk, but drugs and alcohol don’t really make people do things they don’t want to do deep down anyway.

The court case was postponed last week to August 7. Even when it resumes, I’m starting to feel that, like the wounds on Henri’s chest, we may never go particularly deep, and genuine answers to the reasons behind one of the strangest multiple murders in years may always remain elusive.

Years ago, when I was living in Bloemfontein I was shocked to learn that a bright and pretty friend of mine had committed suicide after becoming involved with some sort of weird cult whose leader had apparently instructed her – using a coded written language no less – to kill her parents in their bed. My troubled young friend ultimately took a tragic route out of what she must have thought was an impossible situation.

In any case, that’s what we were told by the guy heading the Occult Crime Unit (or whatever it was called) in Bloemfontein.

In the case of the Van Bredas, no such shocking tabloid-style revelation – to match the gruesome details of the crime itself – has emerged yet in court.

But I would find allegations of cult madness less shocking than the fact that, when it comes to motive, we seem to be completely in the dark as to what the hell was going through young Henri’s mind to do something so unspeakably violent.

That’s if he even did it, of course.

We’ll just have to keep holding our breath for the verdict, and ultimately may be left to speculate for decades.

Charles Cilliers, Citizen.co.za digital editor

Charles Cilliers, Citizen.co.za digital editor

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