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The Van Breda murder trial

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I put a lot of time and effort in the work I do, to ensure it's right, which is why I expect the same from everyone, something I rarely see nowadays unfortunately. One generally end up being disappointed, which is why my expectations are somewhat nearing zero when services are rendered elsewhere.

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Day 20 has arrived and was a relatively short day in court. We are still busy with the “trial-within-the-trial” discussing the admissibility of Henri’s statement. Closing arguments are expected to happen tomorrow.


Andre du Toit took the stand today. He is Teresa’s brother. The morning of the murders he got a call from the estate manager, Boet Grobler. Andre was contacted because he was put down as the emergency contact. He was told to go to De Zalze as soon as possible. He wasn’t told why.


He arrived at the scene and realized there were big problems. The police were there and it was cordoned off with yellow tape. He introduced himself as family and Colonel Benecke approached him. 

He said that Colonel Benecke introduced himself and then asked Andre, “Hoe was die familie?” Andre said in court he didn’t know what Benecke meant by that. He replied to Benecke at the time that he didn’t know of any problems. Benecke then left him to return to his duties and Major Renee Mathee introduced herself to Andre and gave him her contact number. 


During the conversation with Mathee he realized that Teresa, Rudi and Martin had died. He doesn’t recall anything being said about Henri or Marli. He only heard later Henri was taken to the police station and Marli to the hospital. 


After he informed his family and Martin’s brothers of the deaths, his wife and he went to Stellenbosch Mediclinic to try and meet Marli but she was being transported to Vergelegen and the doctors didn’t want the family to see Marli in that condition. 


They then went to the police station and tried to see Henri but they weren’t allowed to. They contacted Christelle Reade-Jahn (James’ mother) as they left the police station. They then went home to Somerset West. They didn’t deliver any food or clothes to Henri. 


They were home for a while when Henri arrived with James. Ron Reade- Jahn (James’ father) arrived with them. Henri was wearing a shirt, board shorts and flip flops. He doesn’t know where he got the shirt. 


They didn’t talk a lot. They cried and hugged. Henri also cried.  Bianca van der Westhuizen also arrived later. It was very emotional and they cried a lot. 


Galloway then cross-examined du Toit. Du Toit says Benecke’s words could have meant anything. Such as if the family had trouble with outside persons. 


Du Toit said he doesn’t recall if they were given a reason they could not see Henri. Du Toit agrees with Galloway that Henri could have gotten the clothes from the Reade-Jahn’s or the van der Westhuizen’s as they were close family friends. 


Du Toit said he believes Henri should have gotten stitches. He doesn’t know if Henri had a beer that night. 


Dr van Zyl described him as calm and the second time more reserved. Du Toit agreed that this is different to Henri’s behavior when he saw him.


Du Toit was excused and Judge Desai allowed the matter to stand down until tomorrow morning.

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What do they mean by "Closing arguments are expected to happen tomorrow" ?


I feel like somehow I missed half the trial or something, Bianca wasn't even on the stand?????


Closing arguments of the trial within the trial, for the admissibility of Henri's statement. And Bianca was on the stand. She was just a useless witness.

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Day 21 of the trial but we are stuck with the trial-within-a-trial. 


Advocate Galloway gave closing arguments today. She said that the only relevant evidence here is Sgt Malan’s. Andre du Toit’s evidence doesn’t assist in whether Henri was detained or a suspect. 


Henri was treated in the ambulance and taken to the doctor as per standard police procedure. The accused never indicated he did not want to talk to the police. He wasn’t put in a position where he had to give information. He did not say anything incriminating in the statement. He was free to leave and be with his family. Dr Alberste confirmed that Henri was brought to her as a victim of a crime. 


The police were eager to get his statement as he was the only witness to a very serious and violent crime and they needed information for crime intelligence. Henri never indicated dissatisfaction at the police’s conduct. He wasn’t forced to be there. According to Malan’s evidence, Henri was never assaulted or intimidated. The accused did not testify in the trial within a trial, he didn’t say to us “I asked for clothes, or I asked for food.” The accused elected not to testify, and that should be taken into consideration.


Advocate Botha then gave his closing argument.


The accused should have been informed of the protection of his Constitutional rights, and failure to do that makes any reference to his statement inadmissible. The onus is on the state to prove beyond reasonable doubt that his statement was not obtained in a manner which goes against his Constitutional Rights. 


Why are we putting up a fight over a statement with information that is on par with the plea explanation? The State’s main witness (Malan) –we know for a fact – was not present when the accused was questioned by Benecke or Adams. And yet the state only called Malan. 


With regards to Sgt Malan, I submit there can be no doubt that his version of my client wearing a t-shirt was a lie. 


Judge Desai interjected here and said, “At worst, this was poor taste. Lie is a harsh word. Your client didn’t testify to say he was bare-chested.”


There is a difference between taking a victim dressed in clothes to the police station and to the doctor and taking a person, bloodied and injured, dressed only in underwear – that becomes a problem. 


The police’s actions don’t indicate that they saw him as a witness. Malan gave the impression that he was there the whole time Henri was questioned and only left once to eat a sandwich and then later said he also left to do some administrative tasks. Then we hear – from his pocketbook – that he actually also went to Blue Downs to investigate a separate case. Nowhere is it said in his pocketbook that he was there during questioning. 


He argued that Adams and Benecke should have been called. The state must have been concerned that their testimonies would contradict each other. 


Botha said it is up to the State to prove his client was not a suspect at the time. Not for him to prove that he was indeed a suspect. The problem isn’t that Malan made mistakes, it’s that he refused to concede that it was his version. 


Malan played a fairly minor role, it could even be possible that Malan really thought he was a victim. Taking the victim to the doctor for blood tests is not the type of tests you conduct on a witness. 


Desai said his decision will be handed down tomorrow morning. 

The court is adjourned until tomorrow morning.

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Day 22, and Judge Desai made his ruling on the admissibility of Henri’s statement. 


He first referred to the pathologist reports, which Advocate Botha does not want to be publicized and which are very graphic. Botha said the publication would be prejudicial to his client. Desai said he is not persuaded that Henri’s right to a fair trial would be compromised. Possible harm is far-fetched. Publication would sensationalize the trial. But the application to bar the press is refused, however, the media should be sensitive with their publications. 


Henri’s statement is allowed as evidence – the reasons to be given at the end of the trial. (saying that makes it seem close by) 


The next witness was Cornelius Engelbrecht, he is with the Hawks. He was asked to assist with the forensic analysis. He investigated the cellphones and landline records. 


Henri’s cellphone data was analyzed as well as the family’s landline. He compiled a report. Henri made a call to Bianca at 4.24. He then made a Google search at 4.27. He called the wrong emergency number at 7.12. Then made a phone call from the landline at 7.12 to 107. 


There was an incoming call at 7.39 but it could not be determined who it was from. All the calls to Bianca went unanswered. There was a text to Bianca “Emergency please pick up the phone.” But here was no further communication. 


There was also a Google Maps search to plot where he had been at that stage. Botha asked whether this was true? Yes, Engelbrecht said. Henri said that he found 10 Allerman Street. Engelbrecht said he doesn’t know how he could have got this address. 


Engelbrecht then stood down as Botha wanted to explore that. 


Andre Hitchcock was the next witness. He is stationed at the criminal record centre in Worcester. He is a photographer and a crime scene investigator. He also took forensic samples at the scene. He has covered thousands of crime scenes. 


He said the De Zalze scene was relatively neat, it wasn’t similar to house or business robberies. In the study, the drawers and the cupboard doors stood open. Touch DNA was taken as per procedure. He said they have a swabbing evidence kit that they use to collect blood samples, which gets put into a numbered kit box which is then photographed with the sample and sealed. 


There are three pages with the swabbing kit. A white page – goes with the kit to the lab. Pink – stays in the docket. Green – goes to the investigating officer. 


Botha then asked why would Henri at that stage plot 10 Allerman Street? Engelbrecht said he doesn’t know; it could happen if he stood somewhere else. 10 Allerman Street is relatively far from 12 Goske Street. 


Hitchcock then took the stand again.  “If there is suspected blood, there is a kit which we use. I open it personally; use one swab per sample and note where it was collected. I fill in the page with the kit and then it is sealed.” 


Hitchcock said that 12 Goske Street was where he collected the most blood samples, compared to other scenes. The evidence collected at the scene are booked in and guarded until a forensic report is assembled. Then it gets sent to the laboratory. 


Hitchcock confirms he made a video of the scene at about 1 pm. He videos the scene before it’s marked, then takes photos. He then identifies certain points where there is forensic evidence and then he photographs again. He does this alone. After that investigators search for evidence and this gets photographed – wide angle and close up. Orange cones are set up where evidence is found. Lieutenant Hanekom and Hitchcock did this at the scene. It was a big scene, so that which they could see, they marked it. 


After Hitchcock did his forensic tasks, Sergeant Olifant did the fingerprints. 


The court is adjourned until Monday, June 5th.

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This post is not the culmination of Day 23. 


Proceedings have been postponed until Wednesday for Henri van Breda due to personal reasons by his defence advocate. 


Matthys Combrink told Judge Desai today that Advocate Pieter Botha asks for the matter to be postponed until Wednesday. The reasons have been given to the court. 


Desai allowed the postponement and the State gave no objection.

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(laughing crying face) That means 30+ more posts[sMILING FACE WITH OPEN MOUTH AND COLD SWEAT] hopefully it gets so interesting I wouldn't mind typing pages and pages.


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Lol yeah, I do appreciate all the updates, along with many other forumites I'm sure,  makes it so much easier to read and follow :)

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Lol yeah, I do appreciate all the updates, along with many other forumites I'm sure,  makes it so much easier to read and follow :)


It's a pleasure. I like talking about the trial so the more I know the better. And what better way to know more than by posting in depth updates.


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Apparently, that halfhearted day on Monday was Day 23 as I see they are saying today is Day 24. 


Botha is back with a vengeance and we are in for a ride. 


Andre Hitchcock is on the stand again.


Advocate Botha: You told us last week that when you arrived at the scene on 27 January 2015, there had already been other officers there? And there had been various bloody footprints at the scene?

Hitchcock: Yes

Botha: Captain Joubert had also been on the scene. Looks like you forgot that he had also been taking photos. He is in one of the photos. 


Hitchcock then said that Joubert had been there for blood spatter. 


Botha then asked whether anyone else was in the house while the photos were being taken and the scene processed. However, Hitchcock said he can’t confirm if anyone else had been there. To which Botha replied that nobody should have been in the house while he documented the scene.


Hitchcock said Joubert and Captain Danie van der Westhuizen had been there to look at the blood spatter and bloody footprints. 


They then referred to photos of possible points of entry at the boundary wall and back gate, which Hitchcock did mark as possible points of entry. He said that he doesn’t know if the side gate was locked but the key was in the keyhole. 


Botha then refers to the open cupboard doors where touch DNA was taken. A photo shows a sealed and an unsealed evidence box. Hitchcock said it’s possible that it hadn’t been sealed at that time. Botha then asked for the outcome of the DNA evidence on the cupboard. Hitchcock said that the outcome does not get sent to them. 


Botha: Seals can’t just fall off, right?

Hitchcock: No.


Hitchcock said that he remembers collecting the evidence of the blood in the basin and the shower in the bathroom of the bedroom where the bodies were found. Botha then referred to photographic evidence that clearly shows Joubert taking the swabs. Botha said he gave Hitchcock the opportunity to say he does not remember or that he was unsure. Hitchcock conceded and said that no one is perfect and he made a mistake. 


Botha said that the chemical spray used to look for blood was a false positive for the shower, later determined by officer Nel. 


Botha then asked for the photos of the evidence kits number 113 – 117. Hitchcock then said it appears that it was not taken. Botha asked why they didn’t follow usual procedure. Hitchcock meekly said he can’t give a specific reason for this. 


There are also no photos of the sealed evidence bags after they were put in their boxes. There was also an exhibit number changed. Wrong address was used in one of his reports.


Hitchcock said no swabs were taken in any other bathrooms in the house.


Botha then showed two photos of the axe. Hitchcock said that the sharp end of the head was tested for blood. Hitchcock indicated that he tested for touch DNA. Botha said that the axe appeared to be the weapon, why not swab the blood? Hitchcock said he sent the axe to the lab but made note of the touch DNA. Hitchcock sent it to the lab, then to his office in Worcester for fingerprints and blood swabs.


Hitchcock can’t confirm if he lifted more than one spatter. He only took one swab from the head of the axe, and from the blunt side. But he can’t confirm how. 


Botha then asked whether Hitchcock can remember if between the when the video was recorded and the photos were taken if the knife was moved by anyone. Hitchcock said he definitely did not move it. 


Botha referred to a photo of the knife sticking out from under the bed. Hitchcock said he placed it on the bed and swabbed it. (this seems contradictive to me from what he just said) Botha then said but there would be DNA on the bed that would affect the knife. Hitchcock said it could. 


Hitchcock can’t say which one of the numerous droplets on the knife he swabbed. 


Botha then referred to mark on a door at the back of the house which looked like blood. Botha asked if they looked there for blood. Hitchcock said that they searched for everything they could find. (as vague as it comes.)


The state had further questioned which got postponed until tomorrow. Officer Lorraine Nel will be called as well as a DNA expert.

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Day 25 was, I am sure, a very compelling day in court. Not so much by words but visually.


The 30-minute video Hitchcock took of the scene that greeted him that morning at 12 Goske Street was played in court. 


Advocate Botha objected to the video being played by the State as he said evidence had been tampered with between the time the video was taken and the photographs were taken, as well as the gruesome nature of the video, showing close-ups of the dead bodies of Martin, Rudi and Teresa. 


Judge Desai overruled the objection but he did clear the public gallery. The media was allowed to view the footage but were warned that they may not be graphic in their reporting. 


Henri had moved to another bench so as not to view the footage of his previous home on that morning.


Hitchcock’s recording showed bloody footprints and blood spatters in the entrance hall. The lounge seemed to look normal, with everyday things standing and lying around. Magazines and a laptop on tables, a handbag and a monopoly board. It all seems so normal until you remember what had happened. 


In the kitchen there were cigarettes and a lighter, a cordless phone and a cellphone were lying on the counter. Kitchen drawers were slightly open. Cigarette butts lay on the floor, seemingly burnt out on their own. A drop of blood was noted on the doorway leading to the pantry. 


The back door stood open, and items on a washing line could be seen. 


A perimeter inspection showed numerous first floor and second-floor windows open. Two blood droplets were shown on the boundary wall near the gate where the key was still in the keyhole. 


Back inside, Hitchcock moves toward the tiled stairs. There is blood spatter at the foot of the stairs next to a pair of shoes. As he continues up the stairs blood spatter is seen everywhere but the top few steps were completely covered in blood. 


At the top of the staircase, next to a bookshelf, Teresa lies on her stomach in a pool of blood, wearing a vest and underwear. 


Moving on to Henri and Rudi’s room, Martin’s body is collapsed over the bed closest to the door. The wall above the headboard is covered with blood spatters, as is the gray duvet and pillow on the bed that he lies on. 


At the end of the second bed, Rudi is seen on the floor with his feet towards the en-suite bathroom.


In the en-suite bathroom, Hitchcock has footage of the faeces in the toilet. Henri said in his plea explanation he had been busy passing his bowels when he heard the noises in the bedroom. 


There is footage of all the valuables still in the house. Various laptops and cellphones were left as they are. 


A variety of footprints were marked, but Botha pointed out that there were much more. Hitchcock said only those that were thought relevant were taken (38 pairs) 


Shoe print expert Captain Danie van der Westhuizen is next on the stand.

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So today was apparently Day 25? These things are really confusing. 


But I have a section that was not available last week at the time of writing about the shoe prints.


Danie van der Westhuizen testified about the footprints found at the scene. 38 were taken and 36 were identified and accounted for – belonging to emergency services and officers. Danie said that he didn’t consider the other two to be real footprints as it could not really be said what they were. 


Now onto today’s trial. 


Candice Brown was on the stand. A ballistics expert, with a degree in Human Life Sciences and an Honors in Genetics. 


She was called to 12 Goske Street in January 2015 to examine impact marks at the scene. She compiled a report in February 2015.


To credit this to News 24, part of Candice’s report: “One piece of painted cement laying on the floor at front door entrance; one impact mark with damage caused by adjacent to the front entrance area.


One piece of painted cement on the staircase; an impact mark consistent with sharp-edged movement above staircase rail; powder particles, like cement powered particles on staircase rail.


A piece of tile fragment on the staircase with the same appearance of tile on staircase floor; impact damage and particles consistent with breakage damage on the 17th stair; impact damage consistent with a sharp edged tool movement in the tile area in the first bedroom.”


A piece of tile fragment on staircase floor lying in debris; one impact mark in the bedroom.


She said that they make replicas of marks with a rubber type substance to make a cast of it. She examined both the axe and the knife. 


Impact marks B, D, and H were caused by a sharp-edged tool. The right-hand area in the front entrance hall is marked as B. In terms of impact mark B, she couldn’t determine if the axe was the cause.


Candice Brown: “When looking at these marks I observed there was certainty of direction, the edge of the two walls was the weaker area of the wall structure, the marks had a beginning and an end, I could follow the course of the marks. In ballistics terms, we normally look at striated marks and indentations. When looking at those marks, there was definitely force applied to have made this controlled sharp edged tool impact mark.”


Advocate Galloway then referred to Henri’s plea bargain where he said he saw the attacker in the middle of the landing and threw the axe, not knowing where it landed or what it hit. 


Brown held up the axe and said that there is a quarter of a chance the axe might land on the sharp area or any of the other areas (butt, head and handle)


The impact on the landing was deep as the brick was exposed. Judge Desai asked if the throwing the axe could result in an unpredictable result? Brown said it is highly unlikely, possible but highly unlikely. 


There were about three uncontrolled impact marks. Galloway then asked what is the damage on the axe? Brown said that there was a little nick out of the metal at the top part of the blade edge. The metal was basically folded she said. She noticed some scrapings off the head of the axe on the green paint.  There were also chip marks at the rear pole area. 


Advocate Botha asked for matters to stand down to consult with his expert. Galloway didn’t object. Court resumes tomorrow.

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Day 26 has clearly not garnered a lot of attention for the media as by 16:13 all I can find is a very unhelpful Times Live article. Not a stitch from News24 which I usually use for their live tweeting of the entire trial, but alas, it seems today not a single person pitched. 


Candice Brown was on the stand again, and from what I can gather, Brown and Combrink (for van Breda) went back and forth for a good hour and a half over a mark on one of the walls (not the one on the stairs) with Brown standing her ground and Combrink standing his, neither conceding. 


They then went back to debate the mark on the stairs. Brown said yesterday that the way Henri said he threw the axe in his plea explanation was “possible but highly unlikely”. Combrink went after her statement today saying that she did not do any calculations or experiments, asking her whether it was all then “thumbsuck”? 


Brown replied that the theory of throwing the axe was only put to her on Monday in court, and based on her official reports it was not thumbsuck.


Combrink asked her to share Newton’s Laws of Motion which she had referred to on Monday. Which she could do. Combrink then said that without knowing the velocity her statement has no meaning in this world. 


Brown responded and said that that is why she called it a possibility instead of ruling it out completely. She is sticking to her statement of “possible but highly unlikely” based on how she examined Mark D and her 14 years of experience. 


UPDATE: Matthys Combrink alluded to the fact that the axe shown in court is maybe not the axe everyone thinks it is. James Reade-Jahn remembers it being black but the family’s domestic worker, Precious, was the only one who testified that it is the same she saw in the scullery. 


Incredulously Judge Desai asked whether Combrink thinks there was another axe? To which he replied, “There was possibly more than one axe.” 


Combrink asked Brown if she had thrown the axe? Brown responded that that was not asked of her. The defence’s expert, Kobus Steyl, has thrown it a distance of 1.5m and it hit straight into the surface without spinning. 


Unfortunately for us, the trial has been postponed until 7 August.

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Well I've grown bored of this entire case and I have a feeling many others feel the same. It's moving so slowly with very little real substance at this stage.


At this rate it's going to be a few more months

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It hasn't been confirmed nor denied. And in a witness list of eighty or more I would expect Marli to be one of them. What if she does remember something? Even if she remembers an intruder or whether Henri did it. Or if she could attest to anything different from what Henri says.


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