Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Van Breda family not so perfect

Court hears of argument, and revealing texts between Marli and boyfriend before axe murders

- MIKE BEHR

THE first signs of tension within the apparently happy Van Breda family emerged in the Western Cape High Court trial this week, in the form of dozens of WhatsApp messages between Marli van Breda and her schoolboy boyfriend.

Marli’s brother Henri is on trial for the murder of their parents Martin and Theresa van Breda, and brother Rudi.

The messages are contained in a 29-page transcript handed into the court record as exhibit FF.

One text in particular grabbed all the headlines and at the time of the 2015 family massacre the investigat­ion turned boyfriend James ReadeJahn, then 16, into a potential suspect.

“I told you I would tell you everything I always feel or am doing,” wrote Reade-Jahn, who attended Somerset College with Marli.

“And right now I feel like I want to murder the people that are around you at the moment and I am inches away from losing it with them and breaking down completely.”

The police confiscate­d Reade- Jahn’s phone, downloaded his messages, questioned him about his fingerprin­ts on the Van Breda cars and demanded an alibi.

But as Reade-Jahn, now a Stellenbos­ch University student, pointed out in court, his message was nothing more than an indiscreet emotional response to an ugly argument around the Van Breda dinner table in which Marli was targeted for her weight gain and the intensity of her relationsh­ip with Reade-Jahn.

The argument took place 17 days before the killings.

The defence asked Reade- Jahn to read that text out aloud. The messages for the first time reveal the dynamics of tension in the Van Breda home which, in and out of the court, has been painted as perfect, not least by Cornelius van Breda, Henri and Marli’s uncle and brother of Martin.

In his testimony earlier this week, he said there was no dysfunctio­n in the family, with a father another witness described as “controllin­g”, and a mother who wanted “more freedom”.

Following the fight, Marli appeared to be frustrated at not being able to talk to ReadeJahn because she feared she would be overheard.

She also indicated to him she could not escape the house to blow off steam, although she did go outside.

Marli: “I can’t leave. They will hear n stop me. My dad is downstairs n I’m trying to hide.”

The couple agree to text and Marli continues: “My dad started with how this relationsh­ip is young and we shouldn’t rely on each other and we should still have separate lives.

“And he was just saying sh*t like how I’m his responsibi­lity and my schooling career is what I have to focus on.”

Marli mentions how her father noted her marks had gone down after studying with Reade-Jahn, and she continues: “Then my mum came and shit literally got sooooo much worse. My mum was attacking me more than ever, more than my dad was. She was going on about geo.

“And how maybe tomorrow u shouldn’t come surfing and I was like u hav over-stepped this now, if James wants to surf, he can f***ing surf.”

Turning to an upcoming family braai at Reade-Jahn’s home, Marli writes: “And both of them said that this is now getting like too much for them or they are uncomforta­ble or some shit.”

Reade-Jahn responds with a series of voice notes that have not been transcribe­d and then Marli, still hiding outside, reveals that Henri called out to her. “I am okay xxx. I’m feeling annoyed and sad. …I told Henri but I told him I don’t wana speak to dad.”

In the next few texts ReadeJahn tries to be supportive, urging Marli to go to bed and get some rest.

Then he sends the message about wanting “to murder the people around you”, adding: “But I am being strong to help you and support you babe xxxx.

“Ps I can call you whenever you need me.

“Don’t let me sit in the dark like this babe.”

Marli replies: “Okay babe I’m sorry. Rudi came out to speak to me.

“He was pretty much saying to suck it up cuz I have nothing to be crying about. He doesn’t listen to anything I say.

“They are not going to stop us babe.

“They are just trying to slow us down cuz we still hav a long way to go.

“N school is a big thing atm (at the moment).”

Reade-Jahn replies: “Rudi can suck it up. He is the one being a little bitch. And they are stopping us everything we trying to do atm.

“They r being assholes. “Can they f*** off forever pls can’t u just come n live with me.

Reade-Jahn signs off with how much he loves Marli – “you mean the world to me babe”.

Little did he know of the chilling prophecy of his desire.

Just 17 days later the Van Breda parents and Rudi were hacked to death.

Following Marli’s miraculous survival and her discharge from hospital months after the killings, she went to live with the Reade-Jahns in a plush, leafy suburb of Somerset West.

Reade-Jahn’s mother Christelle, close enough to the family to be one of the emergency contact numbers on the Van Breda fridge, was a surrogate mother to Marli during her return to school, and her testimony as a prosecutio­n witness could be critical.

In the transcript Marli offers some insight into her family dynamics: “We get a lot of things that we want, we can’t get everything but I do think my parents are being asshole in the way they say it and in the way they handle the situation.”

Shortly afterwards she sends another WhatsApp: “In bed xx.

“Henri is so chilled. I love it xx. Sleep time babe.”

Reade-Jahn replies: “Babe you don’t have to have a big talk with Henri xxxx. You must go to sleep now babe xxxx and you are not wrong in this babe they r making ur life not livable for a normal person and I have no idea how your are this strong to keep it up.”

He says, in reference to Henri: “I know he can be a dick sometimes but he really is a good guy.”

The next morning while trying to arrange a surfing date, Marli reveals she’s trying to forget about the argument but that “deep inside I still hate everyone in my family except Henri haha”.

Reade-Jahn agrees. “Everyone f***ing sucks” and later vents: “F*** I still can’t believe ur parents told you I can’t go surf… that really got to me.”

Marli: “That’s only what my mum said. And my dad was like wtf Teresa.”

Reade-Jahn: “Ok now let’s just leave everything behind u. And forget about all those f***ers xxx just you n me.”

 ??  ?? James Reade-Jahn
James Reade-Jahn
 ??  ?? Marli van Breda
Marli van Breda
 ??  ?? Henri van Breda
Henri van Breda
 ??  ??

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