Today we heard that the Van Breda trial is heading towards a long adjournment of almost two months.

Advocate Galloway told the court that, Captain Candice Brown, who testified on possible tool marks found on the scene of the crime, would be the only witness the state was able to call before the adjournment due to availability of further state witnesses this week.

Moreover, the court is no longer available from Monday.

Advocate Galloway indicated that depending on how long Captain Brown’s evidence takes, the state will be seeking an adjournment until 7 August 2017 – presumably the next available court date.

So, unfortunately, before the state has even closed its case, the matter will undergo a long adjournment. Luckily you have Cape Town Etc, and we will ensure that you are brought right up to speed prior to August 7th, 2017, when the trial is expected to continue.

 

BALLISTICS EVIDENCE

Back to today’s evidence, where we saw Captain Candice Brown testifying for the state. Captain Brown told the court that she works for the SAPS in ballistics and is based at the Plattekloof forensic laboratory. She has been in this field since 2004.

On January 28th, 2017, Captain Brown was called to the crime scene to consider the impact and damage marks found at the crime scene.

She compiled two reports on her findings of the marks she had considered, and had noted and worked on 3 different impact and damage marks identified on the scene. We then heard her conclusions regarding whether the findings were inflicted by force, and what type of tool she thought may have caused the damage on each one. In doing so, she considered a number of factors as well as the axe and knife found on the scene.

 

THE FRONT ENTRANCE DOORWAY

The ballistics expert observed an impact mark on the right hand side of the wall edge adjacent to the front entrance doorway. A piece of concrete on the floor was also noted, which seemed to match the impact and damage mark made on the wall.

Unfortunately Captain Brown did not make any concrete findings, but concluded that the impact was possibly caused by the axe.

It was also concluded that there was a certainty of direction in this mark, a course was able to be followed which revealed a beginning and an end to it. Captain Brown declared that there was force used to create this mark using a sharp edge tool.

The defence has yet to cross-examine on this issue but I suspect that this particular evidence will be important to them as they try and ascertain more about a mark in the wall near the entrance which seems to have been possibly made by the axe.

 

THE WALL ABOVE THE STAIRCASE RAIL

The court was told that there was an impact damage mark on the wall above the staircase rail. Captain Brown stated that this mark was made with a controlled sharp edge movement. After considering the situation of the mark, the length, the width, the depth –  as well as striation and indentation of the mark – she could notice certainty of direction and that the brick beneath the plaster was exposed.

Advocate Galloway then put it to Captain Brown, the accused’s version as set out in his plea explanation, that Henri van Breda had thrown the axe, and asked whether this mark was consistent with his version.

Although Captain Brown could not exclude Henri’s version as a possibility, she thought it was unlikely, and explained that:

1.    the axe was not a “throwing axe”

2.    the axe has 4 areas on which to land, these being the butt, top of the head, sharp edge or handle – a one in four chance of it landing on the sharp edge when being thrown

3.    the brick was exposed, meaning the impact was deep, approximately 10-15mm according to building industry standards

4.    an object of that weight flying through the air would decelerate and lose speed

When applying Newton’s laws of motion, an object of that weight flying through the air and landing on the sharp edge to make that impact would have to have force applied to it.

Thus, although Henri’s version is possible, having considered all of the variants, it is unlikely.

Captain Brown also noted that no pieces of cement were found below this mark. However, she told the court that where there had been a greater impact force, it’s possible that the wall particles would spatter, thus explaining why a piece of wall, similar to the damage downstairs, was not found.

Once again we will need to see what the defence makes of this evidence in cross-examination tomorrow, though there is sufficient possibility that Henri’s version is true.

THE LEFT SIDE WALL AT THE ENTRANCE TO HENRI’S BEDROOM

Today’s witness further provided her views on a part of the left wall at the entrance to Henri’s bedroom where impact damage to the wall was observed.

This wall is very close to the area where Teresa was attacked, and this is the only impact mark which Captain Brown found to be an “uncontrolled” one. The reason for this finding was that she could not find any certainty in direction, and she would actually categorise it if it was a “free” mark with no restraints. No proper force could be followed and there were no striation marks or indentation marks normally consistent with force and control.

Again, Captain Brown could not conclude that this was caused by the axe nor could she conclude that it was not caused by the axe.

In conclusion, Captain Brown told the court that she noticed a nick in the “nose” of the blade, this being the very top tip of the sharp edge of the blade.

It will be interesting to see what is revealed in cross-examination tomorrow, if anything. Unfortunately the evidence given by Captain Brown at this stage is neither conclusive, leaving sufficient doubt for the defence’s version, nor does it seem to take the state’s case any further.

Tomorrow Advocate Botha is expected to start and finish his cross-examination of Captain Botha, whereafter he will argue his application to have the court call Warrant Officer Nel, to enable the defence to test her section 212 statement (this was raised on day 23, last week).

Following this, the trial will be adjourned until August 7th, 2017, due to the availability of the court as well as court recess.

Follow me on Twitter for live, to-the-minute updates tomorrow at day 26 of the van Breda trial.

 

Photography K-leigh Siebritz / HM Images

 

Article written by

Tracey Ann Stewart

Legal expert and counsel for Highbury Media