Today, Henri Van Breda’s defense attorney Advocate Botha continued to cross-examine and test the reports and conclusions made by the State’s final witness, blood spatter expert Captain Joubert, who analysed the many blood stain patterns from the triple murder scene.

Botha skillfully worked through the conclusions Captain Joubert had made in his analysis of the blood patterns on the crime scene and picked apart each and every one. A recurring theme is that there are far too many unknown variables to actually rule out possibilities which could favor the Defence’s version of the events, although in many occasions two possibilities appear equally possible.

Prior to Advocate Botha commencing his cross examination, Captain Joubert’s evidence given on Monday and Tuesday, the scales of justice were weighing heavily in favor of the State – certainly in respect of the blood spatter evidence of the deceased family members. If you missed it, yesterday was a good day for the defence while today was fairly neutral.

Detail on the blood spatter expert’s findings can be read in the Part 1 & Part 2 articles from Monday and Tuesday.

Balancing the scales of justice is a well-known axiom, and one that will continue to be apt in describing how the court will have to deal with analyzing evidence, which is purely circumstantial as in this case. Now that the Defence has had an opportunity to test this evidence, they have provided a number of alternative possibilities for the court to consider, in many circumstances adding a bit of weight to the other side of the scales.  Here are today’s highlights:

 

Axe “throwing” Staged

There are two issues that the Defence wants to overcome in regard to the witnesses’ testimony about the murder weapon being inserted in the wall at the van Breda home as being staged – rather than having been thrown as the accused has said.

  1. Defence wants to counter the testimony that indicate Henri Van Breda tampered with the crime scene.
  2. Secondly, the importance of the throwing of the axe in an uncontrolled movement or (hitting it in the wall) tells us a lot about the credibility, or lack thereof, of Henri’s version of events.

The accused has said from day one that he threw the axe at the attacker as the attacker fled down the stairs. Joubert, however, concluded that the attacker hit the wall, above the landing of the stairs, with the axe in a controlled movement – which was also supported by the testimony from the ballistics expert.

Today, in an amusing turn of events for those in court, Advocate Botha tried to put several different possibilities to Joubert by doing live demonstrations with the axe.

Botha, likely schooled by his own client who was studying Physics at University a few months before the murders, managed to get Joubert to concede that there are many variables in assessing how that axe hit the wall including inter alia distance i.e. the amount of blood on the axe, force with which it was thrown, etc.  Despite the courtroom demonstrations and attempts by Botha, Joubert would not give in, and persisted with his conclusion. It was supported with his own experience and experiments he had conducted with instruments in the past, and simply said: “in my opinion that axe was not thrown”.

Knife pattern on Henri’s Duvet

Botha presented an experiment conducted by his forensic expert, Mr. Steyl, which showed that the blood stain patterns on Henri’s duvet may possibly have been created by folds of fabric in the duvet when Rudi moved along the duvet. Initially, Joubert didn’t want to accept that it could be folded, given that the lines were so defined and he told the court that he had enlisted the help of two other experts on this particular issue who agreed with him. Advocate Botha then presented a photo of the stain pattern on Henri’s bed and moved a blade – the same as the blade of the knife – over it and showed how it aligned perfectly.

Botha then showed pictures of a pillow he bought which was the same material as Henri’s duvet cover, he then placed blood on his forearms, quite a lot of blood, and rubbed them along folds in the pillow fabric. He created 7 stains using this method and then placed the blade over them. Joubert conceded that the stains looked very similar and may possibly have been caused by folds in the duvet.

Rudi’s Blood Stain on Adjacent Wall

I think Botha made a good point when he asked Joubert if he had checked the window, window sill or frame for any other blood spots or spatter, prior to concluding that a drop of Rudi’s blood had flown from his bed (during his attack) through the air, missed the lamp shade and the window frame and the window (in its path) was carried on the wind outside before landing on the outside wall. Captain Joubert conceded that he hadn’t done so which is a pity as it may have strengthened that conclusion. Without that he had to concede that it was certainly possible for those stains to have come off an object that was covered in Rudi’s blood passing the wall.

Two equal possibilities mean Judge Dusai will need to decide which one is most reasonable in the context of the evidence which weighs heaviest. The possibility that weighs in the State’s favor is if the judge can accept Rudi was attacked in his bed, in which case the judge can accept that it was possible for his blood to end up on the outside wall. Alternatively, the more the Defence starts showing the presence of an intruder or another attacker, the more likely the judge is to accept another possibility as being more probable.

 

How long before Rudi died

After much back and forth between counsel and the Judge on the court record and what the State pathologist, who conducted the post mortem of the deceased, testified, Botha tested Joubert on Rudi’s movements that fateful night. Joubert, despite refusing to accept that Rudi had moved himself off the bed while he was alive (based on the blood flow patterns he observed on Rudi’s head), today conceded that Rudi may possibly have lived for 2 hours and 40 minutes after the attack on him.

What is quite curious to me is that the position Rudi was found in seems to be similar to the position he was in when he was attacked in bed; head toward his bed and feet toward the bathroom. Advocate Botha made an interesting observation today, saying we know that Rudi’s head touched the wall near the bathroom which means that Rudi would have changed direction after doing so. Botha further stated that it would make no logical sense for Henri to move Rudi to that position. Whilst Joubert accepted this he also noted that in his view, having considered Rudi’s injuries, Rudi’s attacker had displayed a lot of anger towards Rudi, more so than the other victims, and perhaps that anger was the reason for moving and handling him afterwards.

Although Advocate Botha promised to finish with Captain Joubert today, he was unable to do after Captain Joubert requested an early adjournment, so Captain’s Joubert’s evidence will wrap up on Monday 18 September.

Follow me on Twitter for live, to-the-minute updates from the Van Breda trial.

 

Photography Megan-leigh Heilig / HM Images

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