Henri van Breda's axe man has never been found - cop

Van Breda murders investigating officer Sergeant Marlon Appollis. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Van Breda murders investigating officer Sergeant Marlon Appollis. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cape Town - Nobody matching the description Henri van Breda gave of the axe man he claimed killed his family has ever been found, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

Police informants and the media were used to try and find the balaclava-clad man Van Breda had described, investigating officer Sergeant Marlon Appollis testified.

During cross-examination, Pieter Botha, for Van Breda, pointed out that the few details Henri gave police would not have been very helpful if they were searching for someone who had been wearing a balaclava.

"You would be surprised how often we trace suspects with such little information," Appollis responded. He is a seasoned detective with 14 years' experience. 

He said police were generally aware of the usual suspects involved in burglaries in an area. However, nobody could give any workable information about the "big" intruder in the Van Breda murders.

Van Breda has pleaded not guilty to charges of axing his parents Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and brother Rudi, 22, to death, attempting to murder his younger sister Marli, and defeating the ends of justice.

He alleges an intruder attacked the family in their home in the luxury De Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch, in the early hours of January 27, 2015. He claims the axe-wielding intruder ran away after the two of them struggled.

Appollis said he was tasked with analysing the family’s phone records. The only message that raised alarm bells was one sent by Marli's boyfriend at the time, James Reade-Jahn.

Reade-Jahn's testimony

In May, Reade-Jahn testified about a conversation he had with Marli on January 10, 2015, following an argument in the Van Breda home. He said the upset was caused by a discussion about Marli's weight. When Henri's lawyer countered it was also about the seriousness of their relationship, Reade-John agreed.

Marli messaged him about the spat at the dinner table. Reade-Jahn responded in a text message: "… right now I feel like I want to murder the people that are around you at the moment and I am inches away from losing it with them and breaking down completely.

"But I am being strong to help you and support you babe xxxx. Pls I can call you whenever you need me. Don't let me sit in the dark like this babe [sic]."

In his testimony, he described the message as a mistake and that he "wasn't thinking".

"It was not the right things to say to comfort her. It wasn't directed to mean anything," he told the court at the time.

Appollis said Reade-Jahn was at home the night of the murders and had gone to school the next morning.

He testified that past incidents at De Zalze were analysed. Between February 2014 and February 2015 only theft cases were reported for insurance purposes. Domestic workers and delivery people were suspected to have been involved, Appollis explained. None involved a breach of the estate's security.

The trial continues on Monday.

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