CAPE TOWN, February 13 – Advocate Piet Botha gave a passionate delivery of his final arguments in defence of triple murder accused Henri van Breda on Tuesday, prompting Judge Siraj Desai to ask him to “calm down”.
Botha told the Western Cape High Court the evidence of the State was of “poor quality” and that it had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the final leg of the trial of 23-year-old Van Breda, the defence must convince the Western Cape High Court that the accused’s version of what happened in the early hours of January 27, 2015, is reasonably possibly true.
Van Breda has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of obstructing the ends of justice. He claims that his mother Teresa, father Martin and older brother Rudi were killed by a laughing, axe-wielding intruder wearing a balaclava, gloves and dark clothing. His sister Marli, who was 16 at the time, survived but “not because of a lesser attack, rather a miracle”, according to the State.
The State believes Van Breda was behind the attacks, tampered with the crime scene, that his injuries were self-inflicted to make it look like he too had been a victim, and that intruders breaking into the security estate, De Zalze, undetected was highly unlikely.
Botha, however, insisted that his client was a good witness and had not deviated from his version.
He said the State had relied on speculation. “Inference must be drawn from the facts.”
Furthermore, he said a neighbour’s testimony that she had heard loud male voices arguing between 10pm and midnight on January 26, for two hours “unabated” was impossible.
But Judge Desai said there was no reason for an objective witness, who did not know the family, to lie to the court.
Botha was adamant, however, that what Stephanie Opt’hof heard was “mistaken” and had in fact heard the dramatic, action-packed movie Martin Van Breda and his two sons watched that night.
Whatsapp messages between Marli and her boyfriend, and Henri and his girlfriend, did not indicate a family fight. The only evidence of a “slight family altercation had been two weeks before that”.
He told the court that the estate was not secure and that only 35% of its perimeter had cameras at the time of the incident.
Botha said there were “glaring vulnerabilities” in the system and that the windows of the Van Breda home on the ground floor had been unlocked and open.
“As comprehensively illustrated by the defence during the inspection in loco, neither the pedestrian gate on the eastern side of the Van Breda residence, nor the boundary wall bordering the Locke residence on the western side thereof, would have presented any significant hurdle to perpetrators intent on entering and exiting the property, nor would these actions have left any signs of such entry or exit”.
He said a bloodstain on the kitchen door fitted in with Van Breda’s version. “By the same reasoning, the evidence of the bloodstain deposited on the kitchen door is consistent with the accused’s testimony that the perpetrators fled the scene after the attacks, exiting through the backdoor, during which process they would have been compelled to move through the kitchen door where the stain was found”.
He also highlighted the evidence of defence witness and DNA analyst Dr Antonel Olckers who testified that standard operation procedures at the police’s forensic laboratory had not been followed. “Failure to adhere to these standards, taint the results obtained in the process, rendering the pursuant findings unscientific and void.”
But Judge Desai was critical of her findings, saying: “She could have knocked the state’s case to smithereens, if she had tested the samples herself.”
But Botha reiterated the defence’s contention that standard operating procedures had not been adhered to, invalidating the police’s DNA analysis. “It is submitted that the safeguards presented by adherence to the applicable standards, are crucial components to ensure that the accused is afforded a fair trial and that justice is served.”
He believes his client should be acquitted on all counts as “the circumstantial evidence presented by the State supported the accused’s narrative and not the State’s”.
“The circumstantial evidence presented by the State to prove its case against the accused does not warrant, as the only reasonable inference, that the accused was the person who attacked his family.”
– African News Agency (ANA)