Henri van Breda spends weekend in hospital after seizure

2017-11-13 12:17
Henri van Breda during an earlier court appearance. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Henri van Breda during an earlier court appearance. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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WATCH: Van Breda | Day 59 - expert witness to take the stand

2017-11-13 10:04

The trial of triple murder accused Henri van Breda continues in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Watch live. WATCH

Cape Town - Triple murder accused Henri van Breda spent the weekend undergoing tests at a Cape Town hospital after he had a seizure on November 8, his defence lawyer told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

Advocate Pieter Botha told Judge Siraj Desai that the neurologist who treated Van Breda diagnosed him with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.

The condition most commonly presents during childhood and, according to epilepsy.com "hallmark characteristics… are the presence of myoclonic jerks that occur on awakening from sleep either in the morning or from a nap", typically described as shock-like, irregular and arrhythmic movements of both arms.

"Sometimes these movements are restricted only to the fingers, making the person look clumsy or prone to dropping things," it stated.

AS IT HAPPENED: Henri #VanBreda back in court

Botha said his client has experienced petit mal seizures for some time.

Ethical issue

In preparation for the trial, the State consulted with Dr James Butler - the doctor who diagnosed Van Breda this week.

Botha said the defence wanted to call him as an expert witness and added that the diagnosis was pertinent and may be relevant to the loss of memory Van Breda had for two hours and 40 minutes.

Desai pointed out that the move could create an ethical issue because the prosecution had already consulted with Butler.

However, Botha said the State would have consulted with most, if not all, of the witnesses who had been made available to the defence.

He added that, if the defence was not entitled to call Butler, it would ask the court to call him to testify instead.

A psychologist was expected to take the stand on Monday, but Botha said the expert first wished to see Butler's report as it may impact on part of her evidence.

Desai asked if Van Breda was fit to stand trial if he had been released from hospital on Sunday, but Botha responded that his hospitalisation was only for tests.

Desai mentioned that Van Breda didn't look very well, but Botha quipped that "he is told this is his usual look".


The 23-year-old pleaded not guilty to axing his parents, Teresa and Martin, and brother, Rudi, to death, seriously injuring his sister, Marli, and defeating the ends of justice.

The psychologist was approached last week approached to possibly testify after a "distinct line of questioning" from the State and Desai about the accused's failure to come to the aid of his family.

This included questioning on his calm demeanour when he was on the phone with emergency call centre operator Janine Philander.

Philander initially thought that the call was a prank as he was calm during their telephonic interaction.

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

He told the court he had been frustrated during the extended call, but thought he needed to stay calm so as not to "confuse communication" and added that he had been trying not to show his agitation.

Prosecutor Susan Galloway also questioned why he had not tried to assist his loved ones after the horror attack or why he had not gone to sit with them while he waited for help.

He said he "supposed [he] could have" but didn't think anyone except a medical professional would be able to help.

He felt he had done all he could to help his family.

The expert was also expected to give her opinion on whether Van Breda's behaviour was typical in the situation in which he claimed to have found himself.

Desai asked what weight one could attach to such evidence and Botha responded that, if the psychologist's answers did not carry much weight, he "won't waste the court's time".

The psychologist is expected to give evidence in chief on Tuesday and the prosecutors have indicated that they will be ready to cross examine.

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