On Monday, the van Breda trial resumed with the introduction of the second witness introduced by the Defence, Dr Michael du Trevou, a neurosurgeon based in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Proceedings were concise, the witness in the stand delivered  short and punchy answers throughout, a contrast to the previous witness led by the Defence. Advocate Pieter Botha delved into the neurosurgeon’s experience. The court learned that du Trevou is semi-retired, currently a senior lecturer with experience in neuroscience and brain dissections.

The doctor’s report dealt with the post-mortem of Rudi van Breda – du Trevou testified that the victim’s motor cortex was intact, meaning that he had both the function to “gurgle” and move up until he died. The extent of Rudi’s movement is unknown, but du Trevou said it would have been limited and the victim’s ability to walk after the attack was ruled out by the expert. His testimony also revealed that the blow to Rudi’s head would have rendered him unconscious but it was entirely possible that he regained consciousness with the capability to move – likely crawl – but unable to stand up and make a phone call.

Henri van Breda’s loss of consciousness was the next subject discussed. As we know, the accused had allegedly lost consciousness for 2 hours and 40 minutes. Du Trevou ruled out the loss of consciousness from shock (referred to as a vasovagal attack by the witness), saying that this would only last a few minutes. However, the bruise found on Henri’s forehead may have been the cause of the concussion, rendering an injury to the brain.

Judge Siraj Desai commented that by looking at the photos, it was hardly a bruise. However, the witness explained that although the injury does not seem severe, it is possible that it lead to the accused’s brain being injured, making it entirely plausible that he had passed out following the alleged attack.

The doctor explained further that a loss of consciousness with a duration of 2 hours 40 minutes would indicate a mild-to-moderate brain injury.

Having analysed the accused’s MRI scan, du Trevou said that nothing out of the ordinary was found, but that he did notice two minor congenital abnormalities. He explained the difference between retrograde amnesia (more severe, the period prior to unconsciousness) and post-traumatic amnesia (amnesia suffered after consciousness regained), saying that it is possible for a person who had been concussed to function normally afterwards.

This concludes the testimony of the Defence’s second expert witness.

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Photography Megan-leigh Heilig

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