One axe or two? Van Breda defence raises questions about murder weapon

2017-06-13 16:54
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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Cape Town - Was there one axe at the scene or two? This was the question raised by the defence advocate of triple murder accused Henri van Breda during proceedings in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

Advocate Matthys Combrink said the only person who confirmed they recognised the axe used in the gruesome attack was the family's domestic worker, Precious Munyongani.

Munyongani testified in May that the axe was the same one that had been in the Van Breda house, recalling that it had usually been stored on a shelf in the scullery, where she went to fetch the ironing board.

Combrink said that Marli van Breda's ex-boyfriend James Reade-Jahn remembered a black axe.

A rather incredulous Judge Siraj Desai asked Combrink if he thought there was a second axe involved. Combrink responded that he didn't know.

"There was possibly more than one axe," he said.

Captain Candice Brown, from the police's forensic section, said she didn't know the condition of the axe before the incident.

Her examination, following the attack, found that the damage included a nick on the blade's edge, scrapings off the green paint on the axe head, and chip marks at the rear pole area, the blunt side.

AS IT HAPPENED: Van Breda murder trial postponed to 7 August

Debris on dry blood

During cross-examination she conceded that the damage, resulting in at least two marks found in the Van Breda home, could have been as a result of activity in the house following the attack on January 27, 2015.

Combrink said, in one instance, debris was lying on dried blood, while photo evidence showed that a chip in a tile at the top of the staircase, next to Teresa van Breda's foot, was made later, possibly when paramedics were working on the scene.

He also questioned her testimony that it was unlikely that Henri van Breda had thrown the axe on the staircase at an alleged fleeing attacker.

The damage above the staircase rail at 12 Goske Street had ostensibly been caused after Van Breda threw the axe at the fleeing balaclava-clad intruder from the top of the stairs.

According to his plea explanation, Van Breda saw the attacker near the middle landing of the flight of stairs.

Realising he was not a fast runner, and thinking he would not be able to catch the man, he threw the weapon at him, Van Breda claimed.

He did not see where or what the axe struck.

On Monday, Brown testified that this scenario was possible, but not likely.

'Thumb suck'

It had a 25% chance of landing on its blade when it was thrown, she said on Tuesday during cross-examination.

Brown testified that she looked at the mark in its entirety: The substrate, where it was, the length, width, depth, and impact.

Certainty of direction, force, as well as the fact that the resulting particles had vaporised, was also considered.

Brown conceded that she had not done any calculations or experiments, but had based her findings on scientific laws.

Combrink, however, dismissed it as a "thumb suck".

Van Breda, 22, pleaded not guilty to axing his parents and brother to death, seriously injuring his sister Marli and defeating the ends of justice.

He claimed that an intruder wearing a balaclava, gloves and dark clothes was behind the attack, and that he had heard other voices of people speaking Afrikaans in their home in the De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015.

Van Breda claimed that, after a fight with the axe-wielding intruder, the man had escaped.

The trial was postponed to August 7 ahead of the court recess later this month.

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

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