With nary a care in the world
Triple-murder accused Henri van Breda will stand trial on Monday for the axe killings of his parents and brother, and attempted murder of his sister. Weekend Argus looks at what life has been like for the 22-year-old since the murders at their luxury Stel
and tells. One is Janse van Rensburg. She’s exposed his loving nature to the public, now familiar with the vacant stare he provides for the cameras covering his court appearances.
When Van Breda is strolling at the seaside with Janse van Rensburg, he can’t help himself; he’s smiling and clearly very much in love. And when she returns the compliment, you can see his drawbridges come clanging down. Contrast that with a few months before he met her, when he was seen arriving alone at the Rodriguez concert at GrandWest and leaving alone.
Their relationship is intriguing. Janse van Rensburg’s CV reveals her as sporty and outgoing. Yet that all changed after meeting Van Breda at chef school.
Their guest house routine is stock standard for the couple. They rise late and spend the day in each other’s pockets, says a reliable source, seldom socialising with friends or family, and rarely getting out much.
“They were possibly our most filthy, disgusting guests we’ve ever had,” said the Kommetjie landlord. “I don’t think they ever washed a thing in the room. It looked like they were eating off dirty plates.
“Normally, we’d send the housekeeper in to clean up but I couldn’t subject her to that mess. I thought it was possible they had been evicted from their previous place. We had to give the place a really good spring clean after they left.
The Big Bay landlord was as unequivocal. “I’m so glad they were out of here. They were filthy pigs. The place was like a pig sty. It was filthy.
“Rubbish that you and I would throw in a bin was all over the floor and there was leftover food all over the place.” Such is Janse van Rensburg’s unconditional devotion that she dropped out of chef school with Van Breda, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about that. As the fridge sticker on her Facebook page declares: “My life. My choices. My mistakes. My lessons. Not your business. Mind your own problems before you talk about mine. My life is not your story to tell.”
In the weeks ahead, it may become apparent in the High Court if Van Breda wears a mask – like the superheroes which adorn the T-shirts and hoodies he’s been seen wearing – and if it perhaps speaks to a shadowy aspect of self and an unconventional relationship with his parents.
It sometimes appears that way when he’s in public.
In the first photographs of Van Breda, taken a few months after he lost his family, he sat on Blaauwberg Nature Reserve’s Derdesteen beach watching the sun set with his uncle, a female relative and his puppy which, in between chasing a ball, sat under his arm in a loving embrace. He seemed as if he didn’t have a care in the world. But that changed quickly as he left the beach, looking like a dead man walking, rings under his eyes so dark they looked like make-up.
The last time Van Breda was seen walking his puppy was five months later, again on Derdesteen. This time he was with his uncle, aunt and a teenager with short, curly dark locks…
By now his sister, Marli, was well on the road to recovery in the care of her uncle and aunt and a curator appointed by the court to handle Marli’s legal affairs and to assist the teenager and her family, teachers and therapists with major life decisions.
Although Marli was still suffering from retrograde amnesia, curator advocate Louise Buikman, SC, confirmed her return to school for the last term of 2015, contact with her peers and her brother, Henri.
Word was that Marli was alternating between living in Somerset West with her boyfriend’s family to be close to her school and with her uncle, aunt and brother in Plattekloof.
But despite this knowledge, it was interesting to witness the sibling interaction in the flesh. Not charged at that stage, but nevertheless the prime suspect in the eyes of the cops, here was Van Breda, seven months after the gruesome slaying of his family and the miraculous survival of his sister, walking alongside Marli with not a hint of tension in their body language. Set against the wild pounding surf on a blindingly white beach, it was somewhat surreal.
There was a hint of poignancy too in this outing. Gone was Marli’s long blonde wig which had become her trade- mark when out in Somerset West. Here she was at her most vulnerable – her short, newly growing hair bearing stark testimony to her horrific wounds which, the State says, were inflicted by Henri.
This familial closeness contrasts starkly with the rumours of bad sibling blood since Henri was charged and Marli became a state witness – events which effectively exiled him from the family’s Somerset West villa, apparently rented with money from their multimillion trust funds here and in Australia, which leave them not wanting for much.
The rumour, reported as fact, was that sister would take the stand against her brother. Those in the know say this will not happen. She still suffers from retrograde amnesia and, perhaps thankfully, has no memory of the nightmare on Goske Street.
Another state witness who won’t be able to tell us much, if her mother is to be believed, is an aquaintance of Marli, referenced twice in the indictment as Van Breda’s girlfriend.
Except she wasn’t his girlfriend, says her mother, claiming her daughter had only been on a couple of dates with Van Breda and barely knew him.
Certainly not enough, she adds, to shed any light on the personality behind Van Breda’s numb stare which has become his trademark at his court appearances. So picture this: by Van Breda’s account, a person or persons unknown gains entry without any sign of a break-in and rampage with an axe, slaying his elder brother, his motherand father and wounding his younger sister.
Inexplicably, the neighbours hear no screaming.
Miraculously, Van Breda escapes with only superficial wounds and a blow that only renders him unconscious. He wakes to a slaughter house scene.
But instead of running screaming from this hell in the middle of a fortified luxury suburbia patrolled night and day by security guards, Van Breda calls a high school girl – who is not really his girlfriend – at 4.24am. And then, when she doesn’t answer, says her mother, he Googles emergency services numbers.
And then, the state indictment continues, when Van Breda finally calls services three hours later, he displays superhuman calm and tolerance as the bumbling ambulance control room operator spends three minutes strug- gling to locate his address and write it down correctly.
“Do you get any Allemann Street? Because if you send someone there I can meet them in the road… ” Van Breda offers kindly, as if he’s expecting a pizza delivery.
It almost seems incidental to the conversation when the operator finally enquires: “What kind of injuries is there?”
“Um, my family and me we were attacked by a guy with an axe.” “Unconscious hey?” “Yes, and bleeding from the head,” adds Van Breda, with a chuckle.
And then, almost half an hour later, Henri calls his “girlfriend” again.
Possibly the only person who can make sense of this is Janse van Rensburg.
She has spent more time alone with him than any therapist, cop or lawyer.
When they are together, it’s obvious he trusts her.
So by now Van Breda has shared how he woke to a nightmare and managed to stay so calm.
Why he took hours to call an ambulance when Marli was slowly slipping away. What the attacker wanted that necessitated mass murder…
Because these are the answers a girl needs, right?
Triple-murder accused Henri van Breda’s trial starts in the Cape High Court on Monday.
Henri van Breda with girlfriend Daniellé Janse van Rensburg.
Henri van Breda walks his puppy on Derdesteen beach.