Henri van Breda accused of 'selective memory loss'

2017-11-06 17:44
Henri van Breda. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Henri van Breda. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town – The State on Monday accused Henri van Breda of having selective memory loss, especially with regard to incriminating evidence against him.

Van Breda is accused of axing his parents and brother to death, seriously injuring his sister and defeating the ends of justice.

"You had ample time to consider the State's case against you and to think of explanations for things you consider incriminating," prosecutor Susan Galloway told him during cross-examination.

"Where you can't come up with a reasonable explanation you say you can't remember."

Van Breda denied this.

"I say I can't recall when I can't recall."

Back, head injuries questioned

Galloway said Van Breda's memory became vague when he could not give an alternative explanation and that his memory loss occurred in relation to incriminating evidence against him.

Van Breda denied this.

During cross-examination, Galloway asked the 23-year-old if the injuries to his back and a bump on his head were the result of a scuffle with his then 16-year-old sister, Marli, as she attempted to defend herself.

"No," he said.

He didn't know how he had sustained the bump to his head, suspecting it may have happened on one of the two occasions that he fell.

Because of the nature of Marli's defence wounds, she is believed to have put up the biggest fight against the assailant.

'I thought I was doing the most I could'

Galloway also grilled Van Breda on why he hadn't gone to check on his family while on the phone with emergency services, especially since he had been using a cordless phone.

"I thought I was doing the most I could to get help," he said.

Galloway asked why he hadn't gone to sit near them.

"I suppose I could have," Van Breda conceded.

He said he didn't think anyone except a medical professional would be able to help, adding that he felt he had done all he could to help his family.

The whereabouts of Sasha, the family dog, during the attack was also questioned as no bloody paw prints were observed on the crime scene.

"You didn't shut Sasha in the garage?" Galloway asked.

"No," Van Breda replied.

The prosecutor said it would explain why the dog didn't bark that night.

Van Breda said the opposite would have happened if he'd locked her in the garage.

"She'd be barking and scratching on the door, trying to escape."

Blood pattern

Van Breda said he, like Sasha, hadn't stepped in blood that morning.

Galloway asked if he had taken care to not step in it.

"No, that's not what I said. To say I avoided any and all blood is incorrect," he responded.

He suspected the blood on the right toe area of his sock was a result of it dripping onto his foot when he went to fetch his cigarettes that he had been keeping in his shoes at the bottom of the stairs.

Van Breda said he didn't know how the duvet form his bed ended up next to his brother, Rudi, speculating that his brother, who he recalled had been "moving violently", could have pulled it there.

Galloway, however, countered that it had been placed there as there was no blood pattern showing it had been pulled.

He also could not say how the knife used in the attack ended up under the bed. The blood stains on the duvet indicate that it had been on the bed before being moved to where it was found.

Van Breda suggested it could have "bounced there" when it was dropped, or had been pushed there by Rudi.

His calm demeanour while on the phone with emergency call centre operator Janine Philander was also questioned.

Van Breda said he felt he could have handled the call better. He added that listening to it was "agonising".

Van Breda stayed calm so as not to 'confuse communication'

Galloway asked how he had been able to tell the operator that his family had sustained head wounds and why he had said that he thought only Marli was alive when he claimed to have heard Rudi gurgling. Van Breda testified previously that he hadn't witnessed the attack on his mother, Teresa, and his sister.

He said he had witnessed half of the attack and thought that if he said they had suffered head wounds, assistance would be sent quicker.

He said he didn't know why he hadn't mentioned Rudi.

Van Breda said he had been frustrated during the extended call, but thought he needed to stay calm so as not to "confuse communication" and had been trying not to show his agitation.

Galloway asked why he had repeatedly attempted to call his then girlfriend Bianca van der Westhuizen that morning.

"She was my only friend in SA," he said.

Advocate Pieter Botha is expected to redirect on Tuesday.

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