Sur­prise de­fence wit­ness de­lays Van Breda mur­der trial

Cape Argus - - NEWS -

AN UN­EX­PECTED last-minute de­fence wit­ness has stalled the trial of triple mur­der ac­cused Henri Van Breda.

Judge Si­raj De­sai re­luc­tantly post­poned pro­ceed­ings in the Western Cape High Court yes­ter­day to Novem­ber 27, but said he wants the trial to be wrapped up by the end of the month.

De­fence ad­vo­cate Piet Botha told the court on Mon­day that his client had a seizure last Wed­nes­day and had spent the week­end un­der­go­ing med­i­cal tests.

He said neu­ro­sur­geon Dr James But­ler di­ag­nosed him with ju­ve­nile my­oclonic epilepsy, adding that Van Breda had been hav­ing “pe­tit mal seizures for some time”.

Ju­ve­nile my­oclonic epilepsy is an in­her­ited ge­netic syn­drome.

Some seizures can be trig­gered by sleep de­pri­va­tion.

Dr But­ler is ex­pected to shed light on the two hours and 40 min­utes dur­ing which 23-year-old Van Breda claims he lost con­scious­ness on the night of the at­tack on his fam­ily.

He is on trial for the mur­der of his fa­ther, mother and brother and the at­tempted mur­der of his sis­ter, who was badly in­jured.

Botha said an EEG or brain scan used to make the di­ag­no­sis of ju­ve­nile my­oclonic epilepsy was avail­able, but that But­ler would need time to work on a more com­pre­hen­sive re­port.

Fur­ther­more, he said, a psy­chol­o­gist who is also ex­pected to take the stand to ex­plain Van Breda’s emo­tional re­ac­tions dur­ing the at­tacks might need to amend part of her re­port once she has re­ceived the neu­rol­o­gist’s find­ings.

Se­nior pros­e­cu­tor Su­san Gal­loway did not ob­ject to the de­fence call­ing But­ler and said she had con­sulted him in prepa­ra­tion for her cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of the de­fence’s ex­pert wit­ness and neu­rol­o­gist Dr Mike du Trevou.

The two-week post­pone­ment would also give the State time to con­sult an­other ex­pert if nec­es­sary, she said.

Judge De­sai pointed out that the trial was be­ing “un­duly pro­longed”, but ac­cepted Botha’s ex­pla­na­tion that the wit­ness was un­ex­pected.

“I am re­luc­tant, but I will post­pone the trial as it is in the in­ter­ests of jus­tice to do so,” the judge added.

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 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. –ANA

PIC­TURE: HENK KRUGER/ANA

‘IN IN­TER­ESTS OF JUS­TICE’: Henri van Breda’s de­fence ad­vo­cate re­quested a post­pone­ment, which the judge re­luc­tantly agreed to.

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