Normal family fights or something sinister? This is the question growing roots in the triple axe murder trial of Henri van Breda in the High Court in Cape Town.
An impassioned WhatsApp message from Marli van Breda’s boyfriend‚ James Reade-Jahn‚ shortly before the murders has cast the family in a new light.
Revealed in court on Thursday‚ the message said: “I know I told you everything I always feel or am doing‚ and right now‚ I feel like I want to murder the people that are around you at the moment and I am inches away from losing it with them and breaking down completely but I am being strong to help you …”
Reade-Jahn told Judge Siraj Desai he deeply regrets the words in light of the murders that followed just 16 days later.
But they also reveal a family in conflict: he said he was trying to comfort Marli after an ugly family fight that had left Marli and her mother Teresa “very upset”.
The fight‚ according to Reade-Jahn‚ was to do with Marli having gained weight.
When defence counsel Matthys Combrink put it to him that this was in the realm of a “normal family disagreement”‚ he said he felt something worse had happened in the fight based on how upset Teresa was.
Reade-Jahn also said in court that father Martin and Teresa had a “good relationship” but that Martin had been a controlling husband and father.
“He wanted the best for his kids — he wanted them to be diligent and he wanted to keep the family together‚” he said‚ adding that arguments had arisen over Martin’s control of the family‚ and that “all agreed Martin had been too rough on Marli” during the discussion about her weight.
Reade-Jahn also shared details of how he learnt of the family murders: he had WhatsApped Marli on the morning of January 27 — when the bodies were discovered — to say “good morning” before school and see if she was awake. But there was no reply.
He got a lift to school with a friend and expected to find Marli there‚ but she didn’t arrive. He then called her and the family home several times‚ to no avail.
Eventually he asked his mother‚ who works in the area‚ to go to the estate to see if something strange had happened.
She then arrived at the school and broke the terrible news to him.