We’re into Day 13 of the Van Breda triple murder trial and the state’s case isn’t showing any signs of getting stronger.
The day began with court listening to a surprisingly long 25-minute emergency call that Henri van Breda initiated shortly after 7 a.m – the morning his family was attacked.
Day 12’s testimony, provided from emergency operator Ms Philander, recounted her skepticism of the call as being a prank. On Day 13 she returned to the stand, with the airing of the call revealing her skepticism going largely unwarranted. Playback of the call revealed that twenty minutes of valuable time had passed, delaying the possibility of emergency services arrving at the scene potentially minutes earlier – a few minutes that just may have made a difference. Instead, most of the audio entailed Ms Philander attempting to establish where Henri was calling from.
Adv Botha says what she says sounds like a giggle before “bleeding from the head” is actually Henri saying “please” #vanbreda
— Tracey Stewart (@Traceyams) May 17, 2017
While Advocate Botha of the defence council tried to get Ms Philander to concede that Henri’s behavior on the phone was not the reason for it taking so long for her to send an ambulance to him, Ms. Philander was adamant that his giggle, heard at the beginning of the call, as well as his hesitation throughout the call, was the reason it took so long.
The witness eventually conceded that her skepticism of the call is what protracted it for as long.
While the call was played in court, Henri broke down in tears so much that Judge Desai suggested an early tea adjournment for Henri to collect himself. Judge Desai pointed out to the defence that Philander’s views of how Henri sounded are her own views and we need not rely on those views only because we can now all listen to the call and make our own assumptions about what we thought Henri sounded like – whether he stuttered or sounded calm or not.
The judge also inquired from Philander what the average percentage of prank calls received was. Philander indicated over a period of 6 months 15% of the calls they received had been prank calls. It’s safe to assume that the content of the call will neither acquit nor convict Henri.
The next witness, Dr. Georgina Albertse, was the doctor the police took Henri to for examination on the morning of the murders.
Dr. Albertse read out the report she had completed, which indicated all of the injuries she noted on Henri’s body during her examination. This list detailed a number of cuts, scrapes, abrasions, bruises and the stab wound on his chest. She indicated the depth of wounds, swellings as well as the length of cuts and scrapes.
In her evidence-in-chief, Dr. Albertse told the court that she didn’t believe his injuries would have come from a fall down the stairs as his head wounds were likely caused by a blunt object. She also didn’t eliminate the fact that they could have been self-inflicted. However, Dr. Albertse noted that she recommended the police to refer these injuries to a forensic specialist who would be able to make conclusions on the possible causes of his injuries.
— Tracey Stewart (@Traceyams) May 17, 2017
Under cross-examination, Advocate Botha put to Dr. Albertse the findings made by the defence’s expert, Dr. Dempster, to demonstrate how his client fought with the intruder. Dr. Albertse conceded that it is possible that those injuries were inflicted in the manner described and demonstrated by Advocate Botha. The doctor also conceded that it is possible that the injuries on his head and knee could have occurred from a fall down the stairs if he hit his head and/or knee on the wall, or on the top, flat part of the stairs.
Dr. Albertse’s evidence of his injuries hasn’t advanced the state’s case however she could not rule out conclusions from the defense either.We will need to wait for the evidence of the state’s forensic expert on the possible manners in which these injuries could have occurred as well as the defence’s expert on his conclusions.
A truly fascinating day indeed. Check back tomorrow for updates about the Van Breda triple murder trial. Follow Tracey Stewart on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom on Day 14.
Photography K-Leigh Siebritz