Henri van Breda set to testify
Gaps in defence evidence remain Fees issue impasse
HENRI van Breda is likely to take the witness box this week and reveal to the court how he sustained only superficial wounds in an alleged fight to the death with a masked, laughing axe killer who minutes earlier had slaughtered almost his entire family.
In a dramatic turnaround – at the start of Van Breda’s defence senior advocate Pieter Botha told the court his client would not testify – Van Breda apparently will take the stand in a desperate attempt to counter the State evidence against him.
Although this dramatic development has been confirmed by several reliable sources, defence attorney Lorinda van Niekerk said: “I cannot confirm or deny. We have not yet made up our minds about which witnesses we are still going to call. We are still busy deciding.”
Van Breda is fighting for freedom in a case that accuses him of murdering his mother Teresa, father Martin and brother Rudi in their Stellenbosch golf estate home and attempting to murder his sister Marli, who survived the attack with no memory of it.
He is also charged with defeating and obstructing justice by misleading the police with self-inflicted wounds, false statements and crime scene tampering.
Some of the evidence includes testimony from two State experts who testified that Van Breda’s wounds were not only superficial, but most likely self-inflicted.
Van Breda’s version of events is expected to answer questions that still linger in a trial already into its 53rd day.
The triple murder accused, who will mark his 23rd birthday while on the stand, has already provided a version of how his family were murdered in his plea statement presented at the start of the trial.
Also before the court is Van Breda’s witness statement made to a detective before he became a murder suspect.
The State will be keen to test some of the inconsistencies in the statements.
One is that Van Breda blamed the murders on a lone attacker and then added another in his plea statement.
The attacker, according to Van Breda’s first statement was strong, well built and 1.86m tall. The statement 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 whisky 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 Marli, Rudi and Martin in front of TV set. Marli and his father apparently went to bed around 9pm and he and Rudi retired at 11pm.
In Van Breda’s plea statement he claimed that just he, Rudi and his father watched Star Trek 2 and that afterwards they all went to bed at the same time.
Earlier in the trial neighbour Stephanie Op’t Hof testified that it was not the soundtrack to the film she had heard, but men arguing so loudly for hours that they frightened her.
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 didn’t hear the attack on his mother Teresa and Marli right outside his bedroom door.
But in his first statement he said: “I then can hear that this person was busy assaulting my mother in the passage.”
Van Breda’s second description of how he allegedly fought and disarmed the attacker is far more detailed. In his first account to police, Van Breda didn’t mention stepping over his mother and sister dying in a pool of blood as he pursued the attacker. He claimed the first time he saw them was 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. He alleged he then fainted. The following paragraph is from Van Breda’s first (poorly) transcribed statement: “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 voicemail and I then WhatsApped 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 bit and then I went inside again and sat in the kitchen having some cigarettes 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 anybody of my family in the house the time the person assaulted my family with the axe.” ( sic)
The possibility of Van Breda’s defence not putting him on the stand is remote.
“If Botha doesn’t call him then he has bigger problems than he will have if he does put him on the stand,” said a seasoned advocate who did not want to be named. WITH tension growing among university students over next year’s tuition costs, there is widespread alarm over the cost of funding an over-populated higher education system.
The #FeesMustFall movement is gaining traction once again as universities await the release of the fees commission report before making a decision on their fees for 2018.
Yesterday the presidency indicated that President Jacob Zuma is finalising the processing of the report and will in the week conclude consultations with relevant ministers to ensure that government can implement his decision.
Earlier this week Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba indicated that government was already making large contributions towards higher education with the budget increased from R77 billion this year to a projected R97bn for 2020 and 2021.
Economist Dawie Roodt said as it stands government simply cannot afford to pay for free education.
“I don’t know why the president is sitting on the report, it might be that it would indicate there is significant financial distress among students and that might put pressure on him to put pressure on the minister of finance to spend more money on the students,” he said.
“That is a possibility but the reality is, looking at the minister of finance’s point of view, we have reached the end of the road and we have run out of money. There simply is no more money. It is so bad; I expect the ratings agencies to downgrade South Africa any day now.
“Can we afford to pay for the students, the answer is yes but we must cut something else. Students are very organised and they are vocal.’’
Henri van Breda sits in an ambulance displaying injuries to his torso.