AS IT HAPPENED: Evidence of self inflicted wounds mounts against Henri

2017-05-24 09:43

The Van Breda murder trial continued at the Western Cape High Court for day 17 of the proceedings.

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Last Updated at 10:28
24 May 15:21

24 May 15:21
We will be back at 10am tomorrow, where the pathologist who did the autopsies is expected to testify.

24 May 15:20

"He cut and slashed at my chest and also stabbed at my chest. He also slashed at my left arm. I was still holding onto his right forearm, which prevented him from inflicting serious harm.”


24 May 15:11
Prof Dempers concludes testimony. 

24 May 15:09
He would expect Henri to pull his arm free and hit axe with vigour.

24 May 15:08
Dempers - the fact that attacker may have been tired doesn't gel for me. Adrenaline would cause person to fight back, he explains.

24 May 15:07
Dempers: I take your word for it.

24 May 15:06
Botha says Henri is not a small man. Dempers says this is not an indication of his strength. Botha says he played rugby and swam. He is strong, he says.

24 May 15:05

Dempers says he is trying to look at it logically, saying same assailant slashed people with an axe, there is no reason why would be fighting differently with Henri.

"I was told never to say never, but in this scenario, I find it very unlikely."


24 May 15:03
With a flick of the wrist he hit at him, and tried to get attacker to let go of the knife, but didn't succeed.

24 May 15:01

Botha now has the axe in his hands, showing how Henri would have hit at the man's shoulder as the man was holding onto his arm.

Dempers says this is not inconceivable.


24 May 14:59

During struggle for life and death, Dempers says he finds it strange that Henri targeted the man's shoulder.

"The arm was there. It doesn't fit in with what is expected to happen in a fight or flight situation. "


24 May 14:57
If part of a struggle, chances of them having virtually the same length and being parallel is not likely, Dempers says. Not plausible, highly unlikely.

24 May 14:55
Made with the tip of the knife, which Dempers refers to as scratches.

24 May 14:54
Dempers says its parallel and running in same direction.

24 May 14:54
Botha shows photo which indicates cuts are not perfectly aligned.

24 May 14:53
Dempers says he finds it unlikely - cuts are perfectly perpendicular. If this was a perfectly controlled dance of a fight, then yes. But it wasn't. Exactly equidistant and the same depth.

24 May 14:51

Botha now going to demonstrate on Adv Combrink. 

(Luckily using a ruler)


24 May 14:50
The arm holding the knife hand is facing away, Dempers says.

24 May 14:49
Botha says Henri explained the attacker had tried to cut at his throat. Thereafter tried to cut at Henri horizontally by flicking at his arm. Attacker holding knife in right hand.

24 May 14:45

Now referring to photo of Henri siting in the ambulance.

Botha asks if the two cuts on either side of Henri's chest could be caused by one action. Dempers says it could be one action, but the smaller one on the left comes form the top and curves downward, the one of the left breast curves up, appears to come from a different direction.

If there was a slash, its very difficult to impossible for them to be exactly the same depth or morphology. They have the same appearance, same depth, Dempers says. Likelihood is very, very rare.


24 May 14:39
If he did injure himself, he did so in order to mark his involvement in the incident, Botha asks. Dempers says yes.

24 May 14:38

Dempers says person may be determined to make the defects.

Botha says his adrenaline would have been affected. And after witnessing the attack, he would have felt the effects.

Dempers says yes, it would have had a physiological reaction.


24 May 14:38
Professor looks at Martin's report- no potential defensive wounds described. 

24 May 14:30

Dempers noted in his report that there is a vast difference between Henri and his family's injuries.

Botha says he isn't saying that the axe caused his injuries, but that some were caused by the knife.

Botha says this could explain the injuries sustained by his family and Henri being so different.


24 May 14:26
Blade of knife tapers, move it into wound, cutting edge plays a role, Dempers says.

24 May 14:22
We are back. Adv Botha continues cross examination.

24 May 13:57

24 May 12:58

24 May 12:49
Court adjourned for lunch. Back at 14:15.

24 May 12:40
Knife remained in that piece of pork for 2-3 seconds. Pork skin is significantly thicker than human skin. Tissue not as pliable as human tissue, Dempers says.

24 May 12:37

He warmed the pork and expected a significant difference, but there was no discernible difference.

Thought warmer tissue would show a difference. It didn't.


24 May 12:36
Knife did lodge there for a few seconds before it fell out, Dempers says.

24 May 12:35
Botha refers to Dempers experiment:

The depth was 5 cm, you inserted it into piece of pork, and shook it, the knife remained lodged in it from 2 to 3 seconds.

24 May 12:33
Depth must have been deeper than 10 mm, Dempers agrees.

24 May 12:28
Botha says the wound on Henri's left hand side of abdomen was elliptical shape, measurements given 17mm.

24 May 12:25
Dempers had conducted experiments surrounding Henri's stab wound. Used photo evidence, checked the wet part of the blade. Dempers says depth came to 2.5 to 3cm.

24 May 12:21

Botha: Is it possible for someone to have caused it?

Dempers: Yes, but victim would have to be standing still. The depth and characteristics of the cuts are not in keeping with an attack.


24 May 12:18

I believe the scratches on arms and chest are likely more self inflicted, and the wound in abdomen may be too.

For the back and head injuries, he can't say those are definitely self inflicted.


24 May 12:14
Am I saying they are all self inflicted? No. I have to concede there are other possibilities for some of them.

24 May 12:14

I am assuming there was a scuffle. If I only look a the wounding, they are superficial, parallel; that is already suspicious.

I look at the abdomen and the story; then look at the other injuries and the injuries sustained by the other family members.


24 May 12:12

I look at the injuries and circumstances - look at wounds without history; then the defects with background of what is said to have happened; then look a the scene itself, their wounds.

Then determine if it is potentially self inflicted.


24 May 12:11

Are you of the view that all of the injuries documented are all consistent with self-inflicted injuries? 

Dempers says pathologists must have all the info at their disposal. It's not a thumb suck decision


24 May 12:08
Dempers relied on notes and photos to come to his conclusion.

24 May 12:07
Botha says he must remain objective as an expert witness. Concessions should be fairly made. Dempers agrees.

24 May 12:07
Asks if he knows expert Dr Reggie Perumal, who is sitting with the defence. He says he does.

24 May 12:06
Botha now cross examining.

24 May 12:05
Dempers holds up the knife, shows it goes wider. He measured it. He says it's not razor sharp, and human dermis is relatively strong.

24 May 12:04
The wound on the right thumb of Teresa and on Rudi's fingers may be defence wounds.

24 May 12:02

Galloway says Dr Albertse had used an instrument to check the depth of the wound but stopped when Henri flinched.

He says it is then hard to determine the depth of the wound.

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