Van Breda's claim of throwing axe at intruder 'possible, but not likely'

2017-06-12 14:31
Henri van Breda arriving at court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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

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Cape Town - Triple murder accused Henri van Breda's claim of throwing an axe at a fleeing intruder the morning of his family's slaying was possible, but not likely, a ballistics expert testified on Monday.

Captain Candice Brown, attached to the police's forensic section, testified on the three impact and damage marks found in the Van Breda home following the attack on January 27, 2015.

One of them, 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.

AS IT HAPPENED: Van Breda axe murder trial day 25

Unlikely explanation

Brown said she came to the conclusion that a sharp edged tool had caused the damage, and that there had been certainty of direction.

When asked to comment by prosecutor Susan Galloway on Van Breda's version of what had possibly caused this, she concluded that this was unlikely.

She held up the axe, pointing out it was not a throwing axe used in the sport.

"The axe can land on four areas - the butt, head, edge or handle. If one were to throw it, you would have a one quarter chance of it landing on the sharp edge."

The brick behind the plastered area of the damaged section was exposed inside the impact mark, she explained.

"The impact was deep and therefore the brick was exposed. So basically, the area it would strike [means] the impact mark would have to move beyond the 10mm to 15mm plaster area in terms of SANBS, exposing this brick.

"Any object flying through the air decelerates in velocity and speed. When taking into account laws of motion, one would definitely expect with an object that has weight, flying through the air and landing on the sharp edge side would have force applied on it."

Judge Siraj Desai pointed out that throwing the axe in those circumstances would bring about an unpredictable result.

Impact force

Brown said it would and that Van Breda's version was possible.

"Possible, but highly unlikely."

Cement particles were found below the impact mark, which happens when a greater impact force causes it to spatter into minute particles as demonstrated, she said.

Brown also inspected a chip in the wall at the front door entrance. She told the court she had handled the uncleaned axe to try and determine if it caused the damage, but was unable to confirm this.

She also analysed, at the entrance wall to first bedroom where Van Breda's brother Rudi and father Martin's bodies were found, an "uncontrolled impact mark" - it had no certainty of direction, made as a free mark with no restraint, no force was applied and no proper course of the marks could be followed.

She could not determine if this mark was caused by the axe.

Brown found that the damage to the axe included a nick on the blade's edge, scrapings off the green paint on the axe head and chip marks at rear pole area (blunt side).

She told the court that she had cleaned the axe after conducting her analysis.

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 alleged 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.

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

The trial continues on Tuesday as Advocate Pieter Botha, for Van Breda, requests to consult with his own expert before cross-examining Brown.

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

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