On day 18 of the van Breda trial we heard evidence from another forensic pathologist, Dr. Daphne Anthony, who was lead by the state. Dr. Anthony performed the autopsy on the deceased victims, Martin, Teresa and Rudi van Breda.

She concluded that, in her post mortem report, all of the deceased died from similar injuries caused by both sharp force and blunt force trauma to their heads, consistent with the axe shown to her in court.We heard that all of the deceased sustained chop wounds to the head and Dr. Anthony told the court that she could postulate the sequence of events leading to the deaths of each deceased.

Dr. Anthony confirmed that Rudi van Breda also had lacerations on his leg and a defensive wound on his pinky finger which had lifted the nail on that finger. She predicted that Rudi probably knew the attack was coming, that he was lying in his bed on his side and had raised his hand to his head to ward off the attack. We also heard that due to blood found in Rudi’s stomach, he was probably alive for a period after the attacks.

During cross-examination, Dr. Botha put his expert’s version to Dr. Anthony that Rudi could have been alive for approximately 2hr40min after the attacks took place. Dr. Anthony conceded that this is possible but difficult to conclude as we would need to know how much blood was lost and the rate at which Rudi had lost that blood. It was also revealed that Rudi was likely attacked in bed, where he would have been able to move himself out, after the attacks and very slowly – the reason his body was found on the floor near the bathroom.

INCONSISTENCIES IN HENRI’S VERSION

Next up to be discussed was Martin van Breda, and this is where it gets even more interesting. As it stands, there is little possibility of Henri’s version being consistent with the following evidence about how his father was attacked.

Dr. Anthony revealed that Martin van Breda had sustained chop wounds to the back of his head and upper back with no defensive wounds found on his body. He was seemingly not aware of the impending attack due to his lack of defensive wounds. However, in cross-examination, Advocate Botha put it to her that his client, Henri van Breda, reported that Martin had lunged over the bed when he came into the room to ward off the attacker and that he had attempted to tackle the attacker, similar to a rugby tackle.

In this case, where the attacker was at a higher level than Martin, could the wounds have been inflicted on the back of Martin’s head only? Henri did say that his father’s body had gone limp after the first blow from the axe. Dr Anthony conceded that this would be possible.

Dr. Anthony told us that she postulated that the first wound to Teresa van Breda was to the top middle part of her head and this is consistent with the defensive wound on the inside of Teresa’s right thumb where she would have raised her hand to her head to protect herself. She went further to state that Teresa fell to the ground and likely fell on her face as she had a wound on the bridge of her nose and wounds consistent with a fall on her body.

Although Dr Anthony was not tasked with viewing Marli’s wounds, she was shown pictures of them today and concluded that, from looking at the pictures alone, Marli seems to have sustained the most defensive wounds – evidence of a significant scuffle between her and the alleged attacker.

 

THE TRIAL WITHIN A TRIAL BEGINS

This afternoon, at the defence’s instance, a trial within a trial began, to determine whether or not a statement taken by Henri on the afternoon of 27 January 2017 is admissible. The state started their evidence against this submission by the defence by leading evidence from Quinton Malan – the police officer who took Henri’s statement that day.

We heard that Mr. Malan arrived at the scene at 8am and then drove with Henri to the district surgeon, Dr Albertse, with the view to having Henri’s wounds attended to.

He then took Henri to the police station where a senior officer, Constable Beneke, interviewed Henri to try and find out what had happened that night. This interview lasted for approximately two hours whereafter Mr. Malan sat with Henri and typed out his statement before giving it to Henri to read and then sign.

Mr Malan had never initially viewed Henri as a suspect and had treated him as a victim and key witness.

Due to time constraints on day 18 of the trial, only a brief amount of cross-examination ensued. The rest we will hear on Monday but already Mr. Malan’s version is being questioned.

According to Advocate Botha, while cross-examining Mr. Malan, Henri stated they didn’t go straight to the doctor but rather stopped at the police station first to collect forms and evidence bags. Mr Malan admitted this was true and did not think it important to tell the court this.

Advocate Botha then asked about the clothes Henri was wearing. We know Henri said that he only had boxers on and wasn’t allowed to get clothes brought by family members until he had signed his statement, but Mr. Malan declared that at the doctor Henri was wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt and at the station he was wearing long pants and a t-shirt brought to him by family members.


This trial within a trial will depend entirely on the facts of that day presented through oral evidence. Judge Desai will decide on the believability of the police versus that of Henri’s family members who were at the station that day –  as well as that of Henri himself.

Next week is going to be an interesting turn of events in the trial, as we expect to hear more from Mr. Malan as well as Henri van Breda under cross-examination – a new twist to this riveting trial.

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Article written by

Tracey Ann Stewart

Legal expert and counsel for Highbury Media