Henri Van Breda, who is on trial in Cape Town for the murder of his family, relived the night of their slaughter from the witness box on Tuesday as he attempted to convince a judge of his innocence

A son on trial for the axe murder of his family relived the night of their slaughter from the witness box on Tuesday as he attempted to convince a judge of his innocence.

Henri Van Breda stands accused of repeatedly reigning an axe down on the heads of his parents and siblings in a frenzied early-hours attack at the family's home in South Africa in 2015.

Today, the 22 year-old took the court through the timeline of the bloodbath, which he witnessed through a gap in the bathroom door, before single-handedly fighting off the masked mass murderer. 

Speaking hesitantly, the former physics undergraduate at Melbourne University described the gruesome sights and sounds he witnessed as parents Martin and Teresa, brother Rudi and sister Marli were cut down in their bedrooms by the killer's axe. 

He re-lived the 'twitching and gurgling' of his dying loved ones and the pooling of blood around their stricken bodies in the wake of the onslaught, betraying little emotion as he gave evidence in his own defense. 

The 22-year-old (far left) stands accused of repeatedly reigning an axe down on the heads of parents Martin (far right) and Teresa (right), brother Rudi (centre) and sister Marli (front left) at the family’s home in South Africa in 2015

The 22-year-old (far left) stands accused of repeatedly reigning an axe down on the heads of parents Martin (far right) and Teresa (right), brother Rudi (centre) and sister Marli (front left) at the family’s home in South Africa in 2015

The 22-year-old (far left) stands accused of repeatedly reigning an axe down on the heads of parents Martin (far right) and Teresa (right), brother Rudi (centre) and sister Marli (front left) at the family's home in South Africa in 2015

Van Breda took the court through the timeline of the bloodbath, which he witnessed through a gap in the bathroom door, before single-handedly fighting off the masked mass murderer (Pictured: The axe allegedly used in the attack)

Van Breda took the court through the timeline of the bloodbath, which he witnessed through a gap in the bathroom door, before single-handedly fighting off the masked mass murderer (Pictured: The axe allegedly used in the attack)

Van Breda took the court through the timeline of the bloodbath, which he witnessed through a gap in the bathroom door, before single-handedly fighting off the masked mass murderer (Pictured: The axe allegedly used in the attack)

Marli, Van Breda's then 16-year-old sister, severe head injuries but survived

Marli, Van Breda's then 16-year-old sister, severe head injuries but survived

Marli, Van Breda's then 16-year-old sister, severe head injuries but survived

The Van Breda family were wealthy and well-travelled, having lived in Perth, Western Australia, and spent time on Queensland Sunshine Coast. 

Henri and his brother Rudi attended prestigious Trinity College in Melbourne and and the sandstone University of Melbourne, before the family returned to South Africa in mid-2014.

As he stepped into the witness box, on day 54 of his triple murder trial, Van Breda described the relationship between himself, his parents and siblings as 'very close'. 

He cited the expensive skiing and sailing holidays which filled their various social media platforms as evidence of their shared interests and idyllic lifestyle. 

The weekend before their gruesome massacre, they enjoyed a shark cage-diving adventure together, he told the court. 

In January 2015, after a 'normal' evening spent having dinner and watching a Star Trek film together, their home on a luxury security estate, an hour outside Cape Town, became the scene of unspeakable horror, he told the Western Cape High Court. 

He described being stuck in a spot 'scared' in the bathroom, the only member of his family awake, as he watched the 'silhouette' of an attacker bludgeon his brother, Rudi, as he slept in his bed. 

The intruder then laughed out loud as he set upon his father, Martin, a multi-millionaire businessman, who stormed in to investigate the 'unfamiliar noise'. 

'My father was hit in the head, he didn't move but he was hit several more times after that. I distinctly remember hearing him laugh as he attacked my dad,' Van Breda told Judge Siraj Disai, who will decide the defendant's guilt or innocence. 

The intruder laughed out loud as he set upon his father, Martin (pictured with his wife), a multi-millionaire businessman, who stormed in to investigate the ‘unfamiliar noise’, Van Breda said

The intruder laughed out loud as he set upon his father, Martin (pictured with his wife), a multi-millionaire businessman, who stormed in to investigate the ‘unfamiliar noise’, Van Breda said

The intruder laughed out loud as he set upon his father, Martin (pictured with his wife), a multi-millionaire businessman, who stormed in to investigate the 'unfamiliar noise', Van Breda said

Then aged 19, Van Breda (pictured after the attack) managed to strike the killer’s shoulder with the axe, just as a knife was plunged into his own side, the court heard 

Then aged 19, Van Breda (pictured after the attack) managed to strike the killer’s shoulder with the axe, just as a knife was plunged into his own side, the court heard 

Then aged 19, Van Breda (pictured after the attack) managed to strike the killer's shoulder with the axe, just as a knife was plunged into his own side, the court heard 

The attacker, then out of view, set about schoolgirl Marli, then 16, and mother Theresa as Van Breda stayed put, 'scared, I didn't know what to do,' he told the court. 

After leaving all his loved ones dead or dying, the killer then came for Van Breda, laughing as he approached. 

'He slowly walked towards me, I could see his teeth, mask with holes for the eyes and mouth. He seemed rather unconcerned about me,' the jobless defendant recalled.

Describing how he and the ruthless intruder engaged in hand to hand combat, Van Breda recounted how he managed to wrestle the axe 'rather easily' from the killer's hand and fight him off, before the masked man came back at him with a knife. 

'He attempted to stab or slash at me with the knife, I distinctly remember him trying to get to my throat with the knife,' he told the hushed courtroom. 

Then aged 19, Van Breda managed to strike the killer's shoulder with the axe, just as a knife was plunged into his own side, the court heard. 

Injuries suffered by the young defendant's injuries which were shown in a picture to the court during the prosecution's case were described by doctors as 'superficial' and 'most likely self-inflicted'. 

After stabbing Van Breda, the attacker then fled down the stairs, as Van Breda threw the axe and struck him. 

Schoolgirl Marli (pictured), who remembers nothing about the night of the massacre, did not give evidence for the state in her brother’s case, and declined to be called as a witness for the defense

Schoolgirl Marli (pictured), who remembers nothing about the night of the massacre, did not give evidence for the state in her brother’s case, and declined to be called as a witness for the defense

Schoolgirl Marli (pictured), who remembers nothing about the night of the massacre, did not give evidence for the state in her brother's case, and declined to be called as a witness for the defense

Van Breda (pictured) denies three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of perverting the course of justice

Van Breda (pictured) denies three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of perverting the course of justice

Van Breda (pictured) denies three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of perverting the course of justice

Describing the bloodbath he was then confronted with – 'Rudi on his bed, shaking around' and his sister and mother, 'a lot of blood lying around them', Van Breda said he regretted not raising the alarm until some hours later. 

'For no reason but in hindsight that is something I should have done,' he admitted to defense barrister, Pieter Botha.

Van Breda's appearance in the witness box has been highly anticipated in South Africa, where the case has been streamed live online Today, Judge Desai refused an application by the defense to ban broadcast of Van Breda's evidence, citing his history of a stutter which could be brought on with the pressure of cameras in the court room. 

In the end, there was little evidence of any speech impediment as Van Breda was taken through the appalling events of the attack, which left Rudi and his parents dead, and Marli barely alive with severe head injuries and a slashed jugular vein.

Van Breda stands to lose his share of his parents’ 12m pounds fortune, amassed from various property investments, if he is convicted of murder

Van Breda stands to lose his share of his parents’ 12m pounds fortune, amassed from various property investments, if he is convicted of murder

Van Breda stands to lose his share of his parents' 12m pounds fortune, amassed from various property investments, if he is convicted of murder

Neither was there evidence of a stutter in a recording of his call to emergency services, which was played to the court, and made several hours after the slaughter, claiming he blacked out after falling as he gave chase to the killer.

Schoolgirl Marli, who remembers nothing about the night of the massacre, did not give evidence for the state in her brother's case, and also declined to be called as a witness for the defense, the court has heard.

Van Breda stands to lose his share of his parents' 12m pounds fortune, amassed from various property investments, if he is convicted of murder.

The family spent some years in Australia before moving back to South Africa in the months before the slaughter.

Van Breda denies three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of perverting the course of justice. 

 

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