A family tragedy: three members of Stellenbosch family slain in horrific axe attack

By Almari Wessels
12 February 2015

The Van Bredas of Stellenbosch were blessed with success, talent and wealth – until three of them were axed to death and a fourth gravely injured.

The Van Bredas of Stellenbosch were blessed with success, talent and wealth – until three of them were axed to death and a  fourth gravely injured.

AS FAR as lives go theirs were pretty charmed. Dad Martin van Breda was a successful businessman with a finger in local and international pies and mom Teresa was a homemaker who loved nothing more than entertaining and caring for her brood of three.

Eldest son Rudi had a bright future as an engineer, survivor Henri was taking a break from his physics degree and daughter Marli is a clever social butterfly adored by family and friends.

But Martin (54), Teresa (55) and Rudi (22) are now dead and 16-year-old Marli’s fighting for survival in a hospital in Somerset West. And Henri? The 20-year-old is staying with a family member close by, trying to deal with the horror of seeing his family brutalised and bloodied after they’d been hacked with an axe.

“It’s going well with Henri under the circumstances,” family spokesman Ben Rootman says. “He’s receiving counselling to help him deal with the trauma,  from a range of therapists.”

Rudi stayed behind in Australia to complete his master’s degree in engineering when the rest of the family returned to South Africa. Rudi stayed behind in Australia to complete his master’s degree in engineering when the rest of the family returned to South Africa.

Henri’s the only one who escaped the attack with just a few scratches and could end up being the only person who could provide some answers to the many questions that surround the multiple murders. In a call to emergency services, obtained by news channel eNCA, he seems eerily calm as he tells the operator what happened.

“My family have been attacked,” he says in a clear voice in the short clip. “They’re unconscious and bleeding from the head.”

At one point he lets out a nervous giggle then tells them he’ll be waiting outside for the ambulance and they should “call on my mobile”.

Alex Boshoff (19), a close friend of the family, says Henri is a bit muddled about what happened. “He’s unsure about the facts surrounding the attack,” he tells  YOU. “He can’t remember the details and I didn’t want to quiz him about it.

“All he said was two or three men had attacked them.”

The only other person who could shed a light on what happened on 27 January is Marli, who’s in a serious condition after having had her jugular vein severed and being struck several times by the axe. At the time of going to print she was out of danger but still in a serious condition.

“She’s stable,” Ben confirms. “But she can’t yet receive visitors. It’s for her own good.”

Martin and Teresa were a great support to each other. Teresa took great  delight in caring for the family and entertaining. Martin and Teresa were a great support to each other. Teresa took great delight in caring for the family and entertaining.

THE police are tight-lipped about the murder. The only information comes from neighbours of the Van Bredas at the upmarket De Zalze golf estate.

The white walls of the luxury double-storey house are about all you can see when peering over the yellow police tape cordoning off the crime scene. It seems out of place among the many BMWs and Mercedes- Benz four-wheel-drive vehicles that are stopped at the security gate.

Neighbours are astounded by what  happened – none of them heard any screams or anything else that would have indicated something awful was happening near their homes.

One, who wishes to remain anonymous, rushed to the house after seeing the police tear down the street after Henri had called them.

“Henri was walking  around when I arrived at the scene,” he tells YOU. “Later he sat on the ground, cross-legged. “I asked the policeman if I could console him but he told me to let  him be.”

Henri didn’t look stressed, the neighbour adds, but he “had a funny look on his face”. But Alex saw a different person when he saw him that afternoon.

“He had scratches on his forehead and was crying uncontrollably when I saw him,” Alex says. It was difficult for him to see such a strong young man so  overwrought, he adds, but it’s hardly surprising given the dreadful circumstances.

Police sources revealed the family were found on the first floor of the house, according to Sunday newspaper Rapport. Martin and Rudi were found on a bed.

Teresa, clad in her underwear, and Marli were on the balcony of the same room. A bloodied axe, apparently brand new, was also found in the room.

Henri had told them the intruders first went for Rudi then laid into Martin when he tried to help his son, police insiders told the newspaper. Henri said he was  attacked too but was knocked unconscious.

Neighbours who managed to peer through the windows of the house confirmed to YOU there were two large bloodstains on a mattress. At the time of going to print there’d been no official word from the police. They won’t confirm or deny Henri is a suspect. They won’t say if anything was stolen from the house and how the attack was even carried out, saying only it happened in  the “early hours of the morning”.

Henri said he was  attacked too but was knocked unconscious. Henri said he was attacked too but was knocked unconscious.

THEY “never greeted anyone” when driving around, neighbours of the Van Bredas say. The family kept very much to themselves after returning to South Africa last year after having lived in Australia for seven years.

The reason for their return appears to have been business-related and only Rudi didn’t come back to SA permanently with his parents. He was on holiday and  was planning to return to Australia to complete his degree.

It seems the family weren’t planning to stay in South Africa forever. According to Karl Rademeyer, one of Martin’s former colleagues in Australia, they were set to return to Buderim on Australia’s Sunshine Coast where they’d moved in 2012.

They hadn’t sold their home, cars or furniture there, he told an Australian newspaper. “He had plans to come back and relaunch [property company] Engel and Völkers, ramp up the business and go full steam ahead.”

Martin was a keen businessman, which is why he went to Australia, not because of crime, as initially thought. It’s also what brought him back to the country of his birth.

“Martin was worried about crime in SA but he moved back here for business,” Alex says. The second-year B Acc LLB (accounting and law) student at  Stellenbosch University met the family about six years ago at Thesen Islands in Knysna and has hung out with them every December holiday since.

“They were the perfect family,” he says. “The only thing that was lacking was that they were split up – Rudi was living in Australia and the rest of the family here.”

PHOTOS: CORRIE HANSEN, FACEBOOK

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