Van Breda axe-killings trial stalls


Triple-murder accused Henri van Breda has one fervent wish – to tell his story. But he does not want cameras in his face when he does.

The 22-year-old’s keenly awaited trial in the High Court in Cape Town was off to a false start yesterday.

An application by Media24 to broadcast the proceedings, as well as a request by Van Breda’s lawyer that he be shown pictures of the murder scene, prompted Judge Siraj Desai to postpone the trial to April 24.

Desai granted the media house permission to film the proceedings in the morning but had to suspend the order after both the defence and the prosecution objected. They indicated that they might approach the Supreme Court of Appealif Desai ruled against them.

“I have consulted my client and I have prepared a plea,” said Pieter Botha, Van Breda’s lawyer. “If there is someone who wants to have his say, after he has been in the glare of the media, it is my client.”

Botha asked Desai to postpone the trial so that he could obtain the original pictures of the crime scene, as well as DNA reports on traces found on the murder weapon, from the state.

He said the prosecution had submitted PDF copies to court.

Botha and Hilton Epstein SC, representing the state, opposed Desai’s decision to allow filming. Desai had allowed the media to take pictures inside the courtroom 15 minutes before the hearing started and at the end of the proceedings. He also allowed stationary and unmanned video cameras for live streaming to be mounted in the courtroom.

But he ordered the media not to take pictures of Van Breda’s sister, Marli. The prosecution said most state witnesses were reluctant to testify in the glare of cameras. The parties asked Desai to justify his decision.

“Our instructions are to seek leave to appeal,” said Botha. “It is impossible to appeal without the court’s reasons.”

Epstein lashed Media24 for “waiting until the 11th hour” to bring its application. He said the prosecution would ask for leave to appeal Desai’s decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

But Barbara Vaughan, for Media24, said: “There is inherent flexibility in your lordship’s order and it can deal with the concerns being raised.”

Desai granted the postponement but warned that he would not accommodate unnecessary delays.

“This is the first day of what is a long and complex trial,” said Desai. “I appeal to all parties . to [co-operate].”

Van Breda is out on R100,000 bail. He allegedly killed his father, mother and brother with an axe at the De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate. He is also charged with the attempted murder of Marli, now 18.

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