Van Breda epileptic
Axe murders Alleged killer admitted to hospital for tests
● Henri van Breda, accused of axing his parents and brother to death, spent the weekend in hospital.
This came to light in the Cape Town High Court on Monday.
“Last week my client experienced a seizure and on medical advice was admitted to Constantiaberg Mediclinic on Friday,” said Van Breda’s lawyer, Piet Botha.
Van Breda was discharged from hospital at
7pm on Sunday after undergoing tests.
He was diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (the most common form of generalised epilepsy), and it came to light that he had previously had petit mal seizures.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation's website, these seizures, also known as “absence seizures”, can cause “lapses in awareness, sometimes with staring” and typically “begin and end abruptly [after] only a few seconds".
Botha has said he will call a neurologist, James Butler, to testify and shed light on Van Breda’s claim that he lost consciousness for two hours and forty minutes.
The state has contested this claim, contending it was a ruse to paper over the cracks in Van Breda's story of a man in a balaclava breaking in and attacking the family.
Prosecutor Susan Galloway said last week it was strange that Van Breda “had not mentioned to the doctor who saw him on the day of the murders” that he had been unconscious for more than three hours.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the seizures associated with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy typically start between the ages of five and 16 and are followed by “myoclonic jerks” one to nine years later.
Van Breda told his lawyer to tell Judge Siraj Desai that he had “not been hospitalised because he was sickly but because he had to have tests done”.
Although the nature of the tests was not specified in court, the foundation says that an electro-encephalogram scan is the most important diagnostic tool in this situation.
According to Desai, the proposal by the defence to call Butler posed a “potential ethical issue” because the state had consulted him earlier in the trial but had elected not to call him to the stand.
Botha said that if the defence was barred from calling Butler then he would ask the court to call him instead.
This was a curve-ball: a psychologist was to have been called to testify for the defence on Monday about the way Van Breda said he had responded when his family was attacked.
Last week, his failure go to the aid of his family members during the attack was highlighted, as was his sitting in the kitchen smoking while waiting for paramedics to arrive while, by his account, two family members were fighting for their lives upstairs.
According to Botha, the psychologist would say that the reactions to such situations differ.
The case continues on Tuesday.
Prosecutor characterises as ‘strange’ accused’s failure to mention his claimed loss of consciousness to doctor
EXPLANATION Axe-murder accused Henri van Breda and his lawyer, Piet Botha