Professor Dempers, a forensic pathologist for the State, took the stand as today’s only witness in day 17 of the Van Breda triple murder trial.

The testimony we heard today strongly supported that of what was heard yesterday, when Dr. Tiemensma took to the box to provide her expert opinion that Henri’s wounds were likely self-inflicted.

However, a new development in today’s lead evidence versus what we heard yesterday, regarded the defensive wounds sustained by the deceased. Professor Dempers used these as a comparison for the wounds sustained by Henri and told the court Henri’s mother and brother sustained incisions on their fingers which were consistent with defensive wounds – although, he would have expected these wounds, if inflicted by an axe, to be gaping and they were not described that way in the post-mortem report.

He then told the court that no defensive wounds were found on Henri’s father’s body. We are not sure what to make of this, at this stage, but Adv. Botha noted that defensive wounds are not always evidence of an attack, stating so because of yesterday’s evidence by Dr. Tiemensma. It can be viewed that this was a bit of a cheap shot given that we have already heard from both forensic pathologists that all factors must be considered in examining wounds. In Henri’s father’s case, with chop wounds inflicted by an axe, there is sufficient evidence of an attack.


Professor Dempers’ testimony, moreover, triggered another series of complications in the case, and also identified a big pivot in the case – Henri Van Breda will testify imminently.

Back to the professor. Today’s proceedings heard an objection from the defense, before the professor’s evidence was heard, that stopped Dempers from completely disclosing his opinion. He had his expert testimony limited due to what is currently inadmissible evidence: Henri’s initial witness statement given to police, when he was taken to the police station, shortly after he called emergency services. Henri made this statement to the police and it is being called into question by the defence, who are clearly looking to suppress it.

The defence’s position is that the statement was given in circumstances where the state thought Henry was a suspect. And, as such, they should have advised Henri of his constitutional rights for a fair trial and legal representation. We aren’t certain how the state will respond, but anticipate their position will be the statement was taken by the police when Henri was being considered as only a witness to the triple murder (the police don’t customarily read a witness rights).

What unfolds next will be a ‘trial within a trial,’ starting tomorrow, wherein Judge Desai will have to hear oral evidence from the state and the defence about exactly what happened leading up to Henri giving the statement that day.

We do know that his legal representatives weren’t present, the question is was this an informed decision of Henri’s or not?

Only Henri can give his version of events to counter the version lead by the state’s witnesses, one of which we know is Quinton Malan, the officer that took this statement from Henri.

After hearing this evidence Judge Desai will decide if this initial statement made by Henri – which we can only assume at this stage varies from his plea explanation or the defence wouldn’t be trying so hard to suppress it – should or should not be entered into evidence.

Keep following Tracey Stewart for more updates and coverage on the Van Breda murder trial.


Photography K-Leigh Siebritz / HM Images

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