Van Breda epilep­tic

Axe mur­ders Al­leged killer ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal for tests

The Times (South Africa) - - News - By TANYA FARBER

● 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

Pic­ture: Ru­van Boshoff

EX­PLA­NA­TION Axe-mur­der ac­cused Henri van Breda and his lawyer, Piet Botha

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