Henri van Breda weeps as pathologist describes horrific injuries suffered by his family
Tanya Farber | 2017-05-25 17:48:43.0
Henri van Breda at the High Court in Cape Town.
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER
Marli van Breda put up a major fight against her attacker‚ while her elder brother Rudi probably lay alive for some time before succumbing to his injuries as blood seeped into his lungs.
Their mother‚ Teresa‚ probably fell on her face after trying to defend herself‚ but was then still attacked with an axe. And father Martin might have been hit from behind.
These and other harrowing details emerged in the High Court in Cape Town on Thursday in evidence from Dr Daphne Anthony‚ the forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on the family members killed in an axe attack at their Stellenbosch home in January 2015 .
Henri van Breda – accused of killing his parents and brother – hung his head as Anthony described how Marli had several “defensive wounds” and that there were signs of “a severe scuffle” with her attacker.
Anthony said the nature and location of Marli’s hand wounds showed definite signs of a “struggle going on during the attack” and that she had fought hard to “save her life”.
Earlier‚ as Anthony read details of the autopsies‚ Van Breda moved towards the back of the court to avoid seeing the photographs she referred to‚ and cried silently‚ holding his head in his hands.
Anthony said Rudi had probably been lying in bed on his side when the attacker struck‚ and it is likely the attack on him was most violent.
He probably lay alive for some time after receiving massive blows to the head. Blood pooled in his stomach‚ and ultimately his left lung collapsed as he aspirated his own blood.
Teresa had faced her attacker head on‚ raising her hand with her palm facing outwards to protect herself. She had then probably fallen on her face‚ bruising her ribs‚ before sustaining more severe injuries from further blows. In all cases‚ the force of the blows was so hard that fragments of bone and brain tissue protruded from the head wounds “and could be seen by the naked eye”‚ said Anthony‚ adding that all three had “bled out” after the attack.
Under cross-examination‚ Anthony conceded that the description in Van Breda’s plea statement regarding his father was in fact possible: Van Breda claimed that on hearing Rudi being attacked by an intruder‚ Martin came into the room‚ switched on the light and lunged at the attacker in a manner described by Botha as a “rugby tackle”.
A trial within a trial is now under way to assess whether the statement Van Breda gave to police on the morning of the murders is admissible. Defence advocate Piet Botha claimed Van Breda was not told he had the right to remain silent or advised to get legal representation‚ and was questioned in a cold room while tired and hungry.
The case was adjourned to Monday.