Former schoolboy found guilty of family axe murders
A FORMER Australian schoolboy Henri Van Breda has been found guilty of the axe murders of his mother, father and brother in their luxury South African home - an attack which also nearly killed his teenaged sister.
The family had planned to call the Sunshine Coast home.
Martin van Breda had bought a luxurious Buderim home to build a better life for his three, South African born, children.
His youngest child, Marli, was a student at Matthew Flinders School.
But in late 2014, the family returned to South Africa for Mr Van Breda's work commitments.
In the early hours of January 27, 2015, they were brutally assaulted with a 4.5kg axe in their luxurious and high-security home at Stellenbosch (near Cape Town).
Martin, 54, his wife, Terese, 55, and eldest son, Rudi, 22, were killed and daughter, Marli, 16, at the time, was seriously injured with head wounds and a severed jugular.
Henri was only slightly hurt and made the call to emergency services, allegedly four hours after the attack.
This phone call was leaked to media and Henri appeared to giggle as he detailed his family was "unconscious and bleeding from the head".
In a judgment handed down in a Cape Town court on Monday, Judge Siraj Desai discounted Van Breda's account of a laughing, balaclava-clad intruder attacking his family as he watched helplessly.
Instead, Judge Desai methodically picked apart the explanations of the 23-year old - before finding it was he who had massacred his mother Teresa, father Martin and brother Rudi, before attempting to slaughter his 16-year-old sister Marli.
She was seriously injured, but survived with no memory of what happened on the night.
Van Breda, 23, stood relatively emotionless as the verdict was read.
The horrific crime has gripped South Africa for three years, after the bodies of the successful businessman, his wife and son were discovered at their home in the exclusive De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate in the Stellenbosch region, east of Cape Town, on January 27, 2015.
Before moving back to their native South Africa the family lived in Perth for about seven years, after they first settled in WA in 2005.
The Van Breda's sold their Claremont home and moved to Queensland in 2012 because of another business opportunity and to be closer to their sons who were studying at university in Melbourne.
The trial heard graphic details from prosecutors of their version of the murders, pieced together from forensic evidence.
They concluded a blitz attack was launched on Rudi as he lay in bed, followed by a brutal assault on his father who tried to come to his aid. As a mother and sister looked on in horror, they were brutalised.
Van Breda's version was that he was on the toilet when he heard sounds, "opened the bathroom door slightly and saw someone in the dark hitting his brother".
He claimed he disarmed the attacker and then threw the axe at him as he pursued him down the stairs.
And in a chilling re-enactment in court, Van Breda even swung an axe from above his head across his body to show what he said he saw on the night.
In his judgment, Judge Desai that there was no evidence of any break-in at the highly secure estate.
"The defence was unable to suggest or present evidence of a real breach of the security. The court is in agreement … that it is highly unlikely the security was breached by an intruder from outside the De Zalze estate," Judge Desai said.
Van Breda had also claimed that, after the fight, the man had escaped and he had passed out - which was blamed on undiagnosed epilepsy.
But again, Judge Desai said that the diagnosis, made almost two years on, was made with "exaggerated inferences" - and had no bearing on the killings.
But picking apart the defence case, prosecutors said scratch marks on Van Breda's arms, equal in depth and almost perfectly parallel, were "textbook" examples self-inflicted wounds.
They also pointed to a strangely unemotional emergency call made by Van Breda, nearly three hours after the attacks.
Judge Desai said Van Breda's behaviour after the attacks was "inexplicable".
"The failure to assist his family medically or comfort them in their dying hour - instead he smoked three cigarettes," Judge Desai said.