Van Breda statements inconsistent
In detailed description accused doesn’t hear attack on mother and sister outside bedroom door
WHEN multiple axe murder accused Henri van Breda was questioned by police on the day his family were murdered he told them they were looking for a lone attacker.
This is one of the inconsistencies that emerged when his first witness statement is compared with his plea statement read out in court at the start of his trial.
The admissibility of this first statement was the focus of this week’s trial within a trial where the defence argued that it could not be used as evidence against Van Breda as it was clear that he was a suspect from the beginning yet he had not been read his rights.
Advocate Susan Galloway for the prosecution argued that Van Breda was not a suspect but the only survivor of the horrific attack and thus the only person who could provide the police with any leads.
Judge Siraj Desai ruled in favour of the prosecution on Thursday. This was after defence advocate Pieter Botha failed to put his client in the witness box to challenge the interviewing officer’s version, a decision that surprised Desai.
The attacker, according to Van Breda’s first statement was strong, well- built and 1.86m tall. It makes no mention of the race or language of the attacker who, the court subsequently heard, was black and Afrikaans-speaking.
Van Breda’s first statement also has him drinking more than the wine mentioned in his plea: a whiskey before supper and a rum and coke while he watched Star Trek 2.
One of the notable differences between Van Breda’s versions is that the first provides a timeline of events starting with drinks at about 6.30pm that fateful Monday and supper between about 7.15pm and 8pm.
The accused told police that he joined his younger sister Marli, older brother Rudi and his dad Martin in front of the TV. Marli and his dad went to bed around 9pm and he and Rudi at 11pm.
In Van Breda’s plea statement he reveals just he, Rudi and his dad watched Star Trek 2 and that afterwards they all went to bed at the same time.
Earlier in the trial, nextdoor neighbour Stephanie Op’t Hof testified she heard men arguing so loudly it frightened her from 10pm until 12.10am when she went to bed. During her cross examination, the defence were adamant that what she heard was the Star Trek 2 soundtrack.
In his detailed description of the axe attack in his plea statement ( which according to evidence so far occurred between 3am and 4.24am), Van Breda doesn’t hear the attack on his mother Teresa and Marli right outside his bedroom door. But in his first statement he says: “I then can hear that this person was busy assaulting my mother in the passage.”
Van Breda’s second description of how he fought and dis- armed the attacker is far more detailed.
In his first account to police, Van Breda doesn’t mention stepping over his mother and sister dying in a pool of blood as he pursues the attacker. The first time he sees them is after trying to call his girlfriend Bianca (who earlier claimed on the stand that she was just a friend), while googling emergency numbers on his cellphone as he was climbing the bloody stairs. Then he fainted. “I then woke up… and I can see that my mother was not moving and my sister was still moving and… breathing. I then got hold of the emergency number and then called the ambulance but I waited for 20 minutes on the phone in the kitchen. I then called BIANCA Again about 7.30 and then later again but it went again on voicmail and I then whatssup her and then I got through to the emergency people and then they told me that they are going to call the police. I then opened front door went outside for a bid and then I went inside again and sit in the kitchen having some sigarettes while I waited for the emergency people and then they arrived and then I told them what happened and then they treated my family in the house. I did not touch any body of my family in the house the time the person assaulted my family with the axe.”
Earlier the court heard Van Breda signed the ungrammatical statement riddled with spelling errors typed by Sergeant Clinton Malan because he was exhausted and in shock and wanted to get out of the station “as quickly as possible.”
Although his statement was not correct in all aspects, “I did not want to sit around correcting the officers and reliving the trauma of the night before with another retelling of what had happened.”
Van Breda’s trial continues on Monday. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming a masked black man attacked him and his family in their Stellenbosch home on January 27, 2015.
Henri van Breda