Cape Town was once home to a wealthy family who was headed by father and businessman Martin Van Breda who was married to Teresa Van Breda who was the mother to Henri, Rudi and Marli Van Breda.
How it all began:
On the 27th of January 2015 the van Breda family lay in their own pools of blood while they were axed and stabbed to death. Among the family father and husband Martin, mother and wife Teresa as well as son and brother Rudi died in their Stellenbosch home. Sister and daughter Marli Van Breda was brutally attacked and somehow against all odds survived where she was rushed to hospital to the intensive care unit where she underwent many surgeries and therapy.
Henri Van Breda however was only found drenched in the blood of his family members as well as having sustained minor lacerations.
Henri told police and emergency services that a black man wearing dark clothing, gloves and a mask had broken into the family home where he went from room to room slaying each of his family members as he sat in the bathroom.
Henri who miraculously survived such a brutal attack immediately went to call his girlfriend at 4 am to which there was no answer. Henri then searched the internet for emergency numbers but only called the police some three hours later.
After investigation the police found no fingerprints, foreign DNA or forced entry on the crime scene.
Henri Van Breda was then told to hand himself over to police which he did as he faced charges of murder and attempted murder. Henri was later released on bail on the condition that he reported to police and did not leave the Western Cape pending his pre-trial which was subsequently adjourned for time to gather DNA evidence.
Henry and his girlfriend were later found and arrested in Table View for the possession of cannabis which he later was released on bail.
In April 2018 the trial finally got underway after nearly 4 years without any justice for the victims where Henri made a plea of not guilty which enraged the community after everything they heard in the court room.
Why was Henri granted bail?:
The community was outraged when the news came that Henri was granted bail, not only once but twice! Many however don’t realize that bail is a way in which the court ensures the accused be present at court.
Here are the questions that a judge or magistrate needs to look at when granting a criminal bail:
- The likelihood that the accused will try evade his trial;
- The likelihood that the accused will try to influence and/or intimidate the potential state witnesses or conceal/destroy evidence;
- The likelihood that the accused will undermine or jeopardise the objectives or the proper functioning of the criminal justice system including the bail system;
- The likelihood that the accused will endanger the safety of the public or any particular person or will commit a schedule 1 offence;
- The likelihood that in exceptional circumstances the release of the accused will disturb the public order or undermine the public peace or security.
It was therefore found that 1-5 above could not be applied to Henri as he was not found to be guilty as well as the fact that he was in the care of family members at the time. The conditions of Henri’s bail are that he was not to leave the Cape area and he was to report in to local police officers on a regular basis.
Many people believe that it was unjust to have Henri released on bail after such a heinous crime. However, one should understand that the courts need to treat everyone innocent until proven guilty, and although Henri seemed to be the best suspect, there was no proof of such that the court could convict him on beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony who assessed the deceased and Marli made the following conclusions:
Marli Van Breda: her injuries were similar to those found on the other family members but she had multiple defense wounds that would suggest that she fought off her attacker stronger in force then the rest of her family.
Rudi Van Breda: he has said to have had the most horrific attack out of all the family as he was lying on his back when he was attacked throwing his hands up to defend himself before he was bludgeoned to death. Rudi was still alive for several hours after the attack as blood was found in his lungs and stomach as per his autopsy suggesting that he was still breathing and swallowing.
Martin Van Breda: he was said to have blood also found in his stomach stating that he was still alive after the attack, however, he did not see the attack coming.
Teresa Van Breda: she faced her attacker and tried to defend herself but died fairly instantly.
Motives of the attacker:
As Henri Van Breda’s story of the attack was found to be false he was left as the last suspect. Many speculated that Henri was cut off by his father as he was tired of his drug habits. These habits were confirmed by Henri’s drug dealer who testified against him stating that Henri was a regular customer of his. Henri however has not made any formal statements regarding his motives for killing his family as he still pleads not guilty.
Marli Van Breda:
Due to the severity of Marli’s injuries and after spending many months in surgery after surgery and physio therapy she has officially been diagnosed with retrograde amnesia which means that she has no recollection of the attack and therefore could not testify against her brother.
Marli has been kept away from Henri where she now stays with relatives. She has returned to school and is continuing her life as best she can.
Outcome of the case:
Judge Siraj Desai found Henri Van Breda to be guilty on three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder as well as obstructing the course of justice.
Van Breda was sentenced on the 7th June 2018 to life imprisonment for each of the three murders, 15 years for the attempted murder and one additional year for the obstructing the course of justice.
Henri Van Breda who was temporarily residing in the Pollsmoor Prison in the hospital wing for treatment of epilepsy and depression will now be moved to Paarl Correctional Facility to serve his sentences concurrently.
The Van Breda legal team plan to lodge an application for leave to appeal which will be heard on the 27 June 2018.
They say that the battle line between good and evil lies thin in the heart of every man. Was this tragedy then just another drug induced mistake or is Henri Van Breda an evil murderer who sought to break up his family forever?