Operator thought Van Breda emergency call was a prank, court hears

2017-05-16 18:31
Henri van Breda arriving at court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Henri van Breda arriving at court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - When emergency call centre operator Janine Philander took Henri van Breda’s call at 07:12 on January 27, 2015, she initially thought it was a prank, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

“He phoned in for an ambulance and he was hesitant. I heard what sounded to me like a giggle,” she testified.

Van Breda was “quite calm and co-operative” during their interaction.

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 and alleges an intruder attacked the family in their home in the De Zalze estate, Stellenbosch.

Philander said in her experience, callers reporting a home invasion or assault were frantic, shouted, screamed, were confused, or unable to recall contact numbers. They were persistent and immediately wanted an ambulance.

“I waited for that to come through, but it didn't,” Philander explained.

Henri’s call lasted longer than any of her previous calls for crimes of a similar nature. He stayed on the line for between 20 and 30 minutes, she recalled.

“He was helpful in giving alternative street names. He didn't get angry, wasn't pressuring or getting agitated with me. He was just cool and calm. That was the weirdest [reaction] ever for me.”                                                

He even offered to wait in a different street to where he stayed after she could not find his address on the system, Philander said.

“That is something out of the norm for me. People would usually say, ‘I am not going to where you are telling me to go’,” she told the court.                      

Technical issues with the sound resulted in the matter being adjourned until Wednesday, to allow for the quality of the audio in court to be improved.

Star Trek 2

Earlier, the Van Bredas’ former neighbour, Stephanie Op't Hof, who had rented 10 Goske Street at the time of the murders, testified that she had heard raised voices coming from the Van Breda house between 22:00 and shortly after midnight on the morning of the axe attack.

She was unable to hear what was being said, what language was being spoken, or how many people were involved.

"It wasn't a happy sound. It sounded serious. It wasn't pleasant," she testified.

Op’t Hof, an interior decorator, said she had been working late after putting her two children to bed.

She went to bed after midnight, and her baby monitor woke her just before 04:00. Her infant was wide awake and she took him to her bed, where she found her older child too.

He was wide awake too, Op’t Hof recalled, which was out of the ordinary as he never woke up during the night, she said.

During cross-examination, advocate Matthys Combrink – for Van Breda – told her that Martin, Rudi and Henri had been watching Star Trek 2 that night, on a new home theatre system.

But Op’t Hof insisted that what she heard coming from 12 Goske Street was not a film.

When asked why she didn’t call security or the police, she said she had gotten a fright but “didn't think they were going to kill each other”.

“I didn't want to interfere,” she told the court.

Had someone called for help, Op’t Hof testified that she would have reacted. No one had sought assistance from her that night or morning, she said.

“It’s strange that Henri didn't come to my door and come and ask me for help.”

The trial continues on Wednesday.

Read more on:    henri van breda  |  cape town  |  van breda trial

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