Henri van Breda set to tes­tify

Gaps in de­fence ev­i­dence re­main Fees is­sue im­passe

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE BEHR TSHEGO LEPULE and LUKE FOLB

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.’’

PIC­TURE: SUP­PLIED

Henri van Breda sits in an am­bu­lance dis­play­ing in­juries to his torso.

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