Van Breda murder trial finally set to start today

Henri Van Breda leaves Cape Town High court Picture: Ruvan Boshoff
Henri Van Breda leaving the Cape Town High court – September 2016
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff

The Van Bredas were the picture of success, their lives a boundless universe of ski holidays‚ perfect white teeth‚ private schools and global property ownership.

But on January 27 2015‚ just a few months after the family returned from living in Australia‚ the shocking news broke: Martin van Breda‚ his wife Teresa and their son Rudi had been hacked to death by an axe-wielding murderer at their luxury De Zalze golf estate home near Stellenbosch.

Today, more than two years later, the murder trial is finally set to start in the high court.

Following the brutal attack, only two members of this “ideal family” remained alive.

Henri, who had come out of it with nothing but a few scratches, was quickly labelled a troublesome boy by many who knew him, including a man who claimed to be his drug runner.

In cold contrast, his sister Marli, 16‚ lay fighting for her life after receiving severe blows to the head and jugular in the attack.

Overnight‚ the De Zalze community was plunged into a state of shock as it tried to come to terms with the brutal murder of a neighbour‚ while asking the same questions: How did someone get onto the estate? Or was the attacker a resident?

Slowly, the pieces of this gruesome puzzle‚ though sketchy‚ began to fall into place.

In a frenzy of violence‚ someone had attacked the family in the early hours of the morning.

It was only about 7.30am that a call was placed by Henri to emergency services‚ leaving the public wondering what had happened during the intervening hours.

The recording was leaked to the media – Henri sounded calm and let out a small giggle at one point. He said he had been “attacked by a guy with an axe” and “they are unconscious and bleeding from the head”.

When emergency services arrived‚ a source close to the investigation said Martin and Rudi were found dead in a pool of blood in a bedroom. Teresa and Marli were on the balcony. Teresa was dead and an unconscious Marli was rushed to hospital.

Then came the biggest twist: it was revealed that the police injury form showed Henri’s bruises and scratches were “self-inflicted”. The question now was: When is an arrest going to be made?

It took as long as 18 months. On June 13 last year‚ Henri handed himself over at Stellenbosch police station after police told his lawyer an arrest was imminent.

According to the indictment‚ “[Henri] tampered with the crime scene‚ inflicted injuries to his person‚ and supplied false information to mislead the police”.

Henri was granted R100 000 bail and, after various postponements, the pre-trial hearing was finally set for early February.

As the court case begins today, what happened on that fateful night will finally move from speculation to forensics and facts.

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