Bad English in Van Breda's statement scrutinised

2017-05-29 18:31
Henri van Breda in court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Henri van Breda in court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Henri van Breda did not ask for legal representation before signing the statement of his version of how his parents and brother were murdered, the officer who took it down told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

Sergeant Clinton Malan denied Van Breda's claim that he responded to this request for legal representation with: 'Why? Are you guilty?"

Pieter Botha, for Van Breda, was questioning Malan about the accuracy of the statement, which had not yet been admitted into evidence.

He said it was littered with grammatical and language errors, including the incorrect use of "was" and "were". This was definitely not the type of English his client would use, Botha said.

Malan initially said the statement was taken verbatim, but conceded that there may have been errors in grammar and language. He maintained he was objective and used the information Van Breda gave him to compile the statement.

AS IT HAPPENED: Court considers Henri's statement revealing grammatical errors


Botha said Van Breda had noted the grammatical and spelling errors, but wanted to leave as quickly as possible.

Van Breda had not given an exact height of the suspect, only saying the man was slightly taller than him. In his statement however, the intruder's height is given as 1.86m, Botha pointed out.

According to Van Breda, he never gave specific times to police, but a Colonel Benecke had tried to estimate a timeline by putting it to him. The statement contains specific times.

Malan reiterated that he typed up only what Van Breda told him.

The 22-year-old is on trial on charges of murdering his parents Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and brother Rudi, 22, with an axe, attempting to murder his younger sister Marli, and defeating the ends of justice.

He has pleaded not guilty, claiming a balaclava-clad man attacked the family in their home in the De Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch, in the early hours of January 27, 2015, before escaping.

A trial-within-a-trial was unfolding over the admissibility of the first statement Van Breda gave police on the day of the triple murders.

Botha argued that police had already seen his client as a suspect and that he was entitled to be warned that he did not have to make a statement, had the right to consult a lawyer, and to remain silent.


Malan said Van Breda was not informed of his rights as he was being questioned as a witness, not as a suspect.

Botha said police asked for blood to be drawn from Van Breda at a private hospital later that night to test for alcohol and drugs. Malan conceded it was strange to draw blood from a witness.

While Van Breda was given cigarettes at the police station, he was not given anything to eat, Botha pointed out. Malan confirmed this and said Van Breda did not ask for anything.

The officer rejected Van Breda's claim that he was kept in a room with the air conditioning set on cold. He remembered the window in the room was open.

Also in dispute was what Van Breda had been wearing at the time. Van Breda claimed he was in his underwear. Malan said he was initially wearing a T-shirt and later also long pants.

Botha asked him why only one intruder was mentioned in the statement, as Van Breda said there had been another person in the house. Malan said the information Van Breda supplied was put in the statement.

The trial continues.

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

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