Pathologist stands by opinion that injuries were self-inflicted
Henri van Breda watched yesterday as his defence team imitated in court how an alleged attacker‚ and not Van Breda himself‚ produced “parallel‚ uniform and equidistant” cuts on his forearm.
Van Breda is accused of the murders of Martin‚ Teresa and Rudi van Breda on the night of January 26 2015.
Holding a ruler as a prop for the knife‚ Advocate Piet Botha asked his colleague, Matthys Combrink, to take part in the demonstration‚ which had the victim holding the wrist of the attacker as he flicked the knife against his arm.
But forensic pathologist Jacobus Dempers was not convinced.
Asked by Botha if this was a plausible explanation for Van Breda’s cuts‚ Dempers responded: “No‚ because they are perfectly parallel and equidistant.
“You do it like on television – a perfectly controlled dance. But the chances of those four scratches in real life coming from a fight‚ I say in my professional opinion ‘no’. You never see that in fights.”
He then told Judge Siraj Desai: “I can show you the pictures in the book of self-inflicted wounds. They look exactly like this. The chances are negligible it happened like that‚ unless held completely dead still.”
Dempers also said it was not possible that the knife had stayed in Van Breda’s flesh and that he had to pull it out of himself‚ as alleged in his plea statement. He detailed an experiment in which he held the flesh of a pig completely still.
The 50g knife stayed in for a maximum of three seconds‚ he said‚ but any movement made it fall out immediately.
Earlier‚ Dempers said Van Breda’s wounds “conform almost exactly to what the literature describes for selfinflicted wounds”.
“I find it extremely hard to believe an assailant tried to cause grievous bodily harm to Henri van Breda‚ and that‚ if he did‚ he didn’t flinch when it happened,” he said.
The pathologist provided detail of how Van Breda’s mother‚ Teresa‚ and brother‚ Rudi‚ may have tried to fend off their attacker with their hands before being hit on the head with an axe at the family home in Stellenbosch.
“The deceased all had similar wounds – lacerations and skull injuries‚ and incised injuries,” he said.
Rudi and Teresa van Breda also had what could have been defensive wounds on their thumbs as they had tried to shield themselves against their attacker‚ Dempers said.
In contrast‚ Van Breda had no defensive wounds. Dempers said self-inflicted wounds done for motives of gain were not common.
They typically occurred in areas that were less sensitive‚ and when people were standing still.
When the case resumes today postmortem reports will be presented‚ followed by a trial-within-a-trial to determine if Van Breda’s statement to police is admissible. – TMG Digital