HENRI VAN BREDA’S DNA ON AXE HANDLE
THE chief forensic analyst at the police forensic laboratory has told the Western Cape High Court that “no unknown DNA was found on the scene” of the Van Breda family home in the luxury De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch.
Henri van Breda, 22, is on trial for allegedly murdering his mother, father and older brother on January 27, 2015. His sister Marli, who was 16 at the time, survived the savage attack.
Van Breda has claimed that a laughing, axe-wielding intruder wearing gloves, a balaclava and dark clothing, was the attacker.
But yesterday, DNA expert Lieutenant-Colonel Sharlene Otto said no “unknown DNA” was found in the 216 samples her laboratory analysed.
She told the court that “every touch leaves a trace” in accordance with the “Locard principle” (named after Dr Edmond Locard).
Otto said nail scrapings taken from Henri’s left hand contained the mixed DNA of himself, his mother Teresa and his brother Rudi.
A blood sample taken from the bottom of the axe handle also had a “mixture result”. Otto said Henri’s DNA could be read into the mixture, as well as the DNA of others, but there was not enough to read a full profile.
A swab of blood from the head of the axe again showed a mixture result of both male and female DNA belonging to Teresa and Rudi.
Otto testified that blood found on the corner of the shower floor was also a mixture of DNA profiles – Rudi’s, Teresa’s and Henri’s.
The handle of a knife contained touch DNA that belonged to Rudi.
The lieutenant-colonel said fingernail swabbing of the father Martin’s hand also showed a mixture profile, but the only full profile that could be extracted was of Rudi’s DNA.
She said they did not usually analyse over 200 samples, but in this case there must have been “many bloodstains”.
“We did not struggle to get DNA. I suspect there must have been lots of blood.
“We didn’t struggle to get optimal DNA results. None of my DNA results are surprising. In all the results, we were able to obtain different variations on the same theme. That in itself is normal and to be expected.”
Otto told the court that the blood on the bottom of the axe handle contained Henri’s DNA. “We could not identify anyone else other than Henri in this specific sample.”
Yesterday morning, the courtroom was abuzz while media outlets set up video cameras as Van Breda’s trial resumed following an almost two-month break.
Judge Siraj Desai earlier this year said he did not object to the filming of court proceedings after Media24 brought an application to be allowed to livestream the case.
But both the State and the defence were opposed to livestreaming and approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to intervene.
The SCA set aside Judge Desai’s initial order and referred it back to him, giving him a guideline or set of principles to refer to.
Essentially, it ruled that the default position must be that the media must be allowed to livestream, unless there is an objection. Judge Desai granted the order on Thursday that the media be allowed to livestream the court proceedings, unless there was an objection from a particular witness, the defence or the prosecution.
The prosecution objected to the livestreaming of Otto’s testimony as she testified about the standard operating procedures at the police’s forensic laboratory.
Prosecutor Susan Galloway said these needed to remain confidential. Judge Desai ordered the cameras to stop recording her testimony.
Otto began by explaining what DNA is. “DNA is the molecule of life,” she said.