What you need to know about the judge who's going to decide Henri van Breda’s fate

By Mieke Vlok
01 March 2017

The judge recently made headlines for a completely different reason.

One of the country’s most sensational murder trials kicks off soon, with Henri van Breda (21) facing three charges of murder, one of attempted murder and one count of obstruction of justice on 27 March.

His parents, Martin (54) and Teresa (55), and his brother, Rudi (22), were hacked to death in the early hours of 27 January 2015 on the luxurious De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate outside Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. His sister, Marli (18), survived the attack.

Read more: This is the emergency call Henri van Breda made after the axe attack

PHOTO: Misha Jordaan PHOTO: Misha Jordaan Judge Siraj Desai, a respected judge in the Cape Town high court, will decide Henri’s fate. Desai recently made headlines after he was shortlisted to become South Africa’s new public protector.  

But in the end advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane was chosen as Thuli Madonsela’s successor.

Desai has been a judge for more than 20 years and has handled many high-profile cases, including the murder trial of Najwa Petersen, who was handed a 28-year prison sentence in 2009 for her role in the murder of her husband, music legend Taliep Petersen.

“When I heard the Najwa Petersen case I was judging both the deceased and the accused. They were my peers, people I knew,” Desai later told News24.

Born and raised in Salt River, Cape Town, he also lead the postmortem investigation after former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronjé died in an airplane crash in 2002. Desai also handled the trial of Valencia Farmer's killers. The 14-year-old was raped and stabbed 53 times with a knife in 1999.

But his career hasn’t been without its hiccups: in 2004 while Desai and his wife attended a conference in India, a woman accused him of attempted rape. But she later withdrew the charges and the court in India threw out the case. Read more: Henri van Breda and girlfriend are all smiles in loved-up beach photo Henri’s case begins on 27 March in the high court in Cape Town. He's also facing charges of possession of drugs after he and his girlfriend, Daniellá  Janse van Rensburg, were caught with dagga last year. They're set to appear in the Cape Town magistrates' court on 11 April.

Watch an interview with Desai when he was on the shortlist for the public protector job.

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