Today, in the van Breda triple-murder trial, the Defence continued to lead evidence from Dr Butler, an expert neurologist called by Henri’s Defence team to provide his views on the accused’s recent juvenile myoclonic epilepsy diagnosis.

This evidence is a new point raised by the Defence and is one which came about as a result of a seizure Henri alleges he had shortly after he finalised his evidence in the Defence of the charges of murders of his mother, father and brother.

This new evidence is important for Henri’s Defence as it provides a possible cause for Henri’s loss of consciousness for approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes after his family were attacked, and before he phoned the emergency services. This has always been problematic for Henri’s Defence to explain.

Dr Butler continued where he left off yesterday before being cross-examined by Advocate Galloway. Some important points raised during Advocate Galloway’s cross-examination were the following:

  1. The version of events around the seizure which Dr Butler has drawn his conclusions from is the version given to him by Henri when he consulted with Henri on 10 November 2017;
  2. Henri’s version as recorded by Dr Butler in his report is far less detailed than the detail which Dr Butler has provided to the court during his testimony;
  3. Advocate Galloway found information on epilepsy using the internet which was fairly accurate (as confirmed by Dr Butler). Galloway put to Dr Butler that surely Henri would have been able to access the same information on epilepsy by using the internet, which Dr Butler conceded this as a real possibility;
  4. The court is required to assess versions placed before it and draw conclusions based on the credibility of the source of that information. Dr Butler has reached his conclusions that Henri must have had a seizure that night based on what Henri has told him he felt before and after his lost consciousness;
  5. A seizure that lasted longer than 5 minutes would be a medical emergency.

Advocate Galloway is yet to complete her cross-examination of Dr Butler and will continue with this tomorrow, but thus far Dr Butler has persisted with his views that Henri did not “fake” a seizure and supported this view strongly with the fact that Henri urinated without knowing it on the night of the murders.

We know that urination was detected on Henri’s shorts but Advocate Galloway will argue that given that this is the most common symptom of an epileptic attack, Henri may well have staged this. She will also argue that, in order to accept that he did not know he urinated, the court would need to accept that his entire version of events is true.

Dr Butler then raised a good point, that in his view, if Henri was trying to fake an epileptic attack, to explain the 2hr 40min time lapse, surely he would have drawn attention to the urination on his pants which he did not do in his statement to the police or his testimony in court.

In my view, what the court will likely accept is that Henri has juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. However I don’t believe the court will accept that, on the evening of the murders, Henri had a grand mal seizure which may have lead to his losing consciousness and/or memory for that period of time. I think the court will find it difficult to accept that this type of seizure occurred immediately after his family was murdered but he had never experienced anything like that before or even subsequent to the night of the murders. Until now.

The court’s conclusion will also be based on the remainder of the evidence in totality, which includes the lack of evidence of an intruder as well as the evidence that his wounds were self-inflicted (which has not been disputed by an expert for the Defence, but only Henri’s version himself). If the wounds are accepted as self-inflicted, it’s unlikely the court will also be able to accept the grand mal seizure as reported by Dr Butler, since the accused would not have been conscious to self-inflict his wounds.

Obviously, the court will note that this evidence only provides a possibility of what may have happened after the murders were committed.

Advocate Galloway will continue her cross-examination of Dr Butler tomorrow at 10am follow @traceyams or @capetowneetc for live updates from court.


Photography HSM Images

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