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