Police remain mum on Stellenbosch golf estate victims

2015-04-22 18:13
The Van Breda family (Facebook)

The Van Breda family (Facebook)

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Cape Town - Despite the names of the Van Breda murder victims from Stellenbosch having been in the public domain for weeks, the police are yet to officially name them - something a 38-year veteran of forensic investigations says is very strange.

But Johan Wessels, the co-director for the Post-Graduate Forensic Investigation Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told News24 that one reason investigators may be doing this is because the suspect could be someone close to the family.

“The only thing I can read into that non-disclosure is the fact that they [police] might suspect someone in the family,” said Wessels.

In an e-mailed response to News24 questions about why the names were being withheld and if any arrest was imminent, police spokesperson Andre Traut would only say: "Once we are in a position to disclose more information regarding this matter, we will alert the media by means of a statement."

Henri van Breda, the 20-year-old son who survived the attack with only minor injuries and his younger sister Marli, 16, are the only two family members who survived the axe attack that claimed the lives of their father Martin, 54, mother Teresa, 55, and brother Rudi, 22.

Marli has been discharged from a rehabilitation centre and placed in the care of family friends. She suffered a severe head trauma in the attack.

Criticism for police

Wessels said it was bizarre that investigating officers were concerning themselves with not even naming victims of a crime more than three months after their murders. He said police should at least explain why they haven’t released names. Family members have, however, confirmed the identities.

Criminal law expert William Booth criticised the approach police had taken with the investigation, saying they should have advised the public by now about what was going on.

“The public has a right to know at least basic information why there is this delay,” said Booth in an e-mail.

While he believed the police had been too cautious, he also suggested that they not arrest a suspect “too quickly”.

Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk told News24 over the weekend that significant progress was being made in the investigation, but that this could not be shared with the media at this stage.

Marli’s retrograde amnesia

It had been thought that police were waiting for Marli to recover so they could obtain a statement from her, but family spokesperson Ben Rootman revealed at the weekend that the teenager has retrograde amnesia, meaning she cannot recall anything about the attack.

Psychiatrist and Health24 expert Professor Michael Simpson, known as CyberShrink, said depending on the type and degree of brain damage the incident caused,  one might possibly recover some or all of the memories of what happened,  after a variable amount of time.

“Often you may never recover those memories,” said Simpson.

If Marli’s memory of the tragic incident cannot be recovered, the State’s case would lean even more on forensic evidence.

If police had properly conducted a murder investigation, it would be hoped that the crime scene would have been correctly preserved and assessed.

“The crime scene itself is the most important [area] and there have been many, many botched murder investigations in South Africa [because] many of the detectives are totally inexperienced,” said Wessels.

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Read more on:    police  |  cape town  |  crime  |  van breda murders

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