SAPS forensics lab reliable - chief analyst in Van Breda trial

Henri van Breda consults with his defence team in court. (Tammy Petersen/News24)
Henri van Breda consults with his defence team in court. (Tammy Petersen/News24)

Cape Town – Even though the police’s forensic science laboratory is not accredited, it doesn’t make their results less reliable, chief forensic analyst Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

She was responding to questions by defence advocate Matthys Combrink under cross examination during the triple murder trial of Henri van Breda, accused of murdering his parents and brother in January 2015.

Otto told Judge Siraj Desai that the only difference between an unaccredited and accredited laboratory was an audit by the South African National Accreditation System.

This was not a legal requirement in SA, she explained.

The police’s forensic laboratory followed strict and stringent quality control systems and complied with international standards and guidelines, Otto pointed out.

The court on Monday heard that DNA belonging to Rudi and Teresa van Breda was found under Henri’s fingernails, and in a corner of the shower.

No unknown DNA was found in the family’s luxury De Zalze Estate home.

Total of 216 samples tested

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 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 who was also armed with a knife, the man had escaped.

Otto said Martin's right-hand nail scrapings showed Rudi’s DNA, while a swab taken from the handle of the knife used in the attack – which comes from the family’s kitchen – only matched Rudi.

A total of 216 samples were submitted from the scene, far more than what they would usually receive, she explained.

Despite the high cost of running so many submissions through its systems, as well as the time needed to do this alongside dealing with other cases, all of the samples were tested, Otto told Combrink.

Cross examination is expected to continue on Thursday.

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