The State concluded their cross-examination of triple murder accused-turned-defence-witness Henri van Breda today.

On the fourth day of being in the witness stand, the 23-year old again met Advocate Susan Galloway’s line of questioning around the sequence of certain events as laid out in his testimony. Galloway continued to highlight areas where details between the accused’s statement to the police and his plea explanation in court do not match.

“Not my words” and “Again, I disagree” have become two common phrases uttered by Henri since Galloway began with cross-examination last week. But today, he conceded that on inspection, the emergency numbers on the fridge were probably more useful than his snap-decision to try and Google emergency services.

After initially explaining that he had considered the emergency numbers but concluded that it would be more useful to first Google and then phone them directly, he then considered the paper from the fridge in court today, and noted the heading Medical Emergency 24 Hours and accepted that choosing to dial  the number found on that sheet would have been a good idea.

 

Marli’s struggle

Galloway put to Henri that his head injuries and the scrapes on his back were consistent with a fight with sister Marli – whom we know struggled with her attacker. Henri does not recall how he got the bump on his head, and by assuming it was from the stairs simply refuted this inference by the State. We learned today, and it is noteworthy that Marli had marks on her fist which may have caused the bump on his head.

 

Rudi being alive

Galloway reminded the court that slain brother Rudi van Breda would have needed to have been alive for a while after the attacks to explain why his body was moved from the bed.

She rightly pointed out to the witness Henri that he never made mention of seeing his brother move or heard him ‘gurgling’ the next day in his police statement. As with every other inconsistency in that statement, Henri simply explains that it was the police who left this detail out, not him.

The State prosecutor, in her line of questioning, cleverly noted that Henri made a point of telling the emergency services that Marli was alive but he did not say that Rudi was also alive. Why, Galloway asked, did he say this if he was certain he could hear Rudi and had seen him moving? Would he not have told the emergency services that both his sister and brother were conscious? Henri said that in Australia, the procedure taught at school is to act immediately and get help when in the presence of somebody struggling to breathe or suffering a head injury. He conceded that this was his decision upon seeing Marli.

The fact that Henri did not give this detail to the operator, and it wasn’t in the police statement, means that the court will probably accept that he did not think that Rudi was still alive at that point.

 

Checking on his family

Galloway also grilled the witness on electing to light up cigarettes while on the phone with emergency services, as opposed to checking on his family.

This was a good point as Henri had not been inside the room to check on his brother and father after regaining consciousness, and he had only looked at Marli and his deceased mother when he regained consciousness. He did not go over to them to check on them – yet he described them all as having head injuries which would imply that he had in fact had a closer look at their injuries or attacked them.

In response, the witness told the court that he had been taught not to interfere with neck or head injuries at school, and did not seek help from neighbors on that morning because he knew that it would be useless if they were not medical professionals.

Toward the closing of the State’s cross-examination, Galloway put it to Henri that he has a particularly vivid memory of evidence which is consistent with his version and a complete lack of recollection of detail which would not be consistent with his version. Nobody is in a position to dispute his version, however, and the evidence before court will be considered and weighed up against his version.

Henri hasn’t left the stand, however. Tomorrow, Defense Advocate Pieter Botha will re-examine Henri and we will then find out if the defence is ready to close their case.

 

Photography Sean Dollery / HM Images

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