SAPS labs not like CSI, but get results – court hears in Van Breda trial

Cape Town - While the police’s forensic science laboratory is not exactly the set of crime drama CSI, it is state-of-the-art and its results are reliable, the police’s chief forensic analyst testified in the trial of Henri van Breda on Thursday.

Nothing had gone wrong in the 216 samples submitted in the Van Breda case as they were done in isolation and there was no reason to doubt the outcome of the results, Sharlene Otto told the Western Cape High Court.

She explained to Judge Siraj Desai the stringent measures and standard operating procedures used to obtain a DNA result. Thursday was day 30 of the triple-murder accused’s trial.

During cross-examination by Matthys Combrink, for Van Breda, Otto said there was a lot of blood at the scene and that authorities had no trouble finding DNA.


Henri van Breda in the dock as Sharlene Otto gets ready to testify in the High Court. (Netwerk24)

Earlier this week, she said while the police’s forensic science laboratory was not accredited, this did not make its results less reliable. She testified that the only difference between an unaccredited and accredited laboratory was an audit by the South African National Accreditation System, which was not a legal requirement in South Africa.

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

Van Breda, 22, 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 wearing a balaclava, gloves and dark clothes attacked the family in their home in the De Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch, in the early hours of January 27, 2015.

No unknown DNA

On Monday, the court heard that DNA belonging to Rudi and Teresa was found under Henri’s fingernails, and in a corner of the shower. No unknown DNA was found in the home.

Van Breda claimed the intruder was armed with an axe and a knife, and that he escaped after the two of them fought.

Otto said Rudi’s DNA was found under the fingernails of Martin’s right hand. A swab taken from the handle of the knife used in the attack only matched Rudi. The knife was from the family’s kitchen.

Far more samples were submitted in the Van Breda case than was usual, but despite the cost implications and time required, all 216 were tested, she said.

Cross-examination is expected to continue on Friday.

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