Day seven of the Van Breda triple murder trial has drawn to a close, and we already have a solid idea about what the theme for the remainder of the week is going to be.

The security aspect of De Zalze Estate has been discussed at length thus far, with the state confidently laying out evidence about the tight security at the estate. The defence, however, is persistent in its attempt to create doubt in this regard by proceeding to dissect the testimonies of witnesses.

Today, we heard from Marcia Rossouw who is the Security Manager employed by De Zalze. Rossouw started working there in February 2014 and provided a high-level view of the security of the estate, as well as evidence behind the possibility of a potential breach in the perimeter security. It’s her responsibility to consider upgrades to the system, regularly receiving reports on alarms, patrols, incidents and possible security risks.

The day took an interesting turn when Advocate Botha tested Rossouw on a 2012 report, drawn up by Thorburn Security, wherein the report author had proposed several upgrades to the system in place at the time. Rossouw agreed that when she arrived in February 2014 there were improvements to be done and she did just that. An upgrade was completed in September 2014, prior to the murders taking place.

Although these reports can’t be ignored, I think it is important to note that Thorburn is in the security business and have an interest in regular upgrades and increased staff which may not be completely necessary for an efficient system.

Importantly, Rossouw’s testimony revealed that the alarm activations referred to in last week’s report were not physical alarm activations. In short, these were alarms which the system had logged as warnings of a potential system issue or perhaps an interruption of power. These activations would not have shown up on the operators’ screen and therefore did not require a physical check by security personnel on duty.

The court now has a perfectly reasonable and acceptable explanation for these “alarm on” events which is consistent with the patrol officers’ evidence that they were not informed of any alarm activations that evening.  However, there is still no answer to who logged a patrol on the system at zone 39, five minutes after the 01:36 alarm activation, even though that was apparently not a physical alarm. Rossouw stated that she could check her records to determine who patrolled at that time and why. It was probably a routine patrol as according to Rossouw the patrol officer would not have been told of that particular alarm activation given that it wasn’t a physical activation.

Rossouw also told the court that after she learned about the murders, the security company immediately put in place various procedures to determine whether there had been a security breach.  This included checking the perimeter fencing, access card use, vehicle registrations and camera footage of the entire estate. Reports were then drawn up for Rossouw, who verified these checks with the facts supporting the reports. Her conclusion from those reports was that no security breaches were found that evening.

Overall, Rossouw’s evidence was consistent with that of Afrika and Wyngaard. But ultimately, we have plenty of security evidence still to hear.

In his cross-examination, Advocate Botha put a number of situations to Rossouw regarding various manners an intruder may have gained access to the estate

  • Triggering the alarm with a wet branch and jumping over
  • The possibility of an intruder having removed bricks which were temporary placeholders in broken areas of the fence
  • Access from the restaurant and wine-tasting area of Kleine Zalze

Theoretically, the defence has shown that there are possibilities of access to the perimeter. However, I believe at this stage, they have been unable to cast sufficient doubt on the evidence relating to that specific evening.

This afternoon a TV was set up in court, so we are expecting the defence to show footage from the various cameras around the estate tomorrow morning.

Follow @Traceyams on Twitter for lives updates from Day 8 of the Van Breda triple murder trial.


Photography K-Leigh Siebritz / HM Images

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