Photo of hand clutching hair strand a pivotal issue in Van Breda triple axe murder trial

⁠⁠⁠Murder accused Henri van Breda at the Western Cape High Court
Picture: Esa Alexander

A photograph of a hand clutching a strand of hair.

This image was at the centre of a storm in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday.

Forensic evidence provided damning evidence against triple axe murder accused Henri van Breda — only to be torn down by defence counsel Piet Botha who discredited the forensic analyst and basically accused him of lying under oath.

Colonel Henry Steward‚ a forensic analyst with two decades’ experience in forensic services in Pretoria‚ told the court the photograph showed the hand of Marli van Breda‚ Henri’s surviving sister‚ and that the strand of hair could only have been forcibly removed from someone’s head — as opposed to ending up there from natural shedding.

Steward also said “if there were signs of hair from a person of another race on the crime scene it would have showed up”.

This discredited Henri’s claims that he thought it was a person of colour who had intruded on the family home at 12 Goske Street.

Stewart confirmed what was in his report that the hair sample found in Marli’s hand was excluded as being that of any of the other Van Breda members.

However‚ in a gruelling session of cross-examination that began with Botha assuring the witness that “he had no intention of intimidating him“‚ Stewart came under major fire.

He was accused of providing “false impressions” and supplying a “misleading affidavit” and therefore skewing “crucial” evidence.

Firstly‚ after questioning Stewart‚ it came to light it was entirely possible there were foreign hairs on the scene of the crime since a match wasn’t found in the lab for all of the fourteen hairs under the microscope.

It also came to light that the hair might have been forcibly removed at some other point‚ and then ended up an object that Marli clutched. In other words‚ it couldn’t be excluded that the hair was not pulled directly out of a head and ended up in Marli’s hand.

Then‚ Stewart was asked to read out the instruction letter provided to him by investigating officer Colonel Deon Beneke from March 20, 2015 in which Beneke clearly stated that the hair could be that of “suspect” Henri van Breda.

Botha said this showed that Stewart was lying under oath when he claimed that he was looking at “numbered samples” with no knowledge of the personal identity of those whose hair it was.

Stewart defended himself by saying he had proceeded without reading the covering letter in an attempt not to prejudice his scientific analysis‚ but Botha said this was not something he could expect the court to really believe.

The case continues.

– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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