Today, the Defence wrapped up their evidence in the state’s case against triple-murder accused Henri van Breda, but we’lll have to wait until 2018 to hear the outcome of this lengthy trial. The matter was postponed, for legal argument, to 12 February 2018.

This morning, Advocate Susan Galloway did get some strong concessions from Dr James Butler, one of which was that Henri could have committed the murders and then had a seizure.

Dr Butler also conceded that the only objective evidence he had to rely on, in making his conclusions, was a picture that showed Henri had wet his pants. This is not new in the trial as it has been in the police docket from the early stages of the investigation. Despite this, Dr Butler did not deviate from his conclusion and stated that the evidence that Henri had had a severe seizure on the night of the murders was overwhelming. Even though the source of the evidence, outside of the photo of his wet pants, was Henri himself. As such, the court, and Dr Butler’s conclusion, is completely reliant that Henri was being truthful in his account of events.

Dr Butler confirmed that, if the wounds Henri sustained are found to have been self-inflicted, then they were most likely to have been inflicted prior to the seizure as he would not be able to inflict those wounds subsequent to the type of seizure he allegedly had.

The witness also stated that given the evidence of self inflicted injuries, and if the court was to accept that the wounds were self inflicted, it is more probable that they occurred after the murders, but before the seizure;

Dr Butler conceded that although it was a possibility that the seizure and postictal state lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, he has no way of determining how long either lasted.

More telling, was the questions put to the doctor by Judge Sir Desai, before he left the stand. The most noteworthy being:

  • In the background of what has happened the wet pants are an insignificant detail when compared to what had just occurred in that house. Dr Butler refused to agree and said that he doesn’t believe it is insignificant. The doctor said he would have expected Henri, if he was malingering, to tell the police about wetting his pants;
  • Two seizures were reported by Henri and his girlfriend, which took place after the trial. Judge Desai asked, since in both cases Henri was discussing this case, was it a coincidence? Dr Butler offered the explanation of stress being the precipitator in those instances;
  • Is the best place to make a diagnosis at the time the incident occurred? Dr Butler disagreed and said that it was his job to do so after the fact. Judge Desai then noted that he appreciates that it is his job, but that his job is uncertain as he deals with the human mind, which is very unpredictable. The judge went on to note that in this case Dr Butler is making a diagnosis 2,5 years after incident in the middle of a highly controversial trial, surely it makes the diagnosis difficult.  Dr Butler persisted that he was independent and very capable of reaching the conclusions he had, with confidence.

It will be very interesting to hear the legal team’s argument on 12 February 2018. I am not convinced that this witness took the matter much further, however, I would have liked the State to call their own expert Neurologist to test some of the conclusions made by Dr Butler which are now relatively undisputed.

Article written by

Tracey Ann Stewart

Legal expert and counsel for Highbury Media