Transcript: 153. South Africa: The Van Breda Family Axe Murders

You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.


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Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones. 


As the sun rose over De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate, bright and warm promises of another idyllic summer day loomed. The luxurious lifestyle estate is impeccably maintained and everything seems picture perfect. De Zalze is only a short drive from Stellenbosch and boasts views of the world-class golf course and its surrounding mountains. This slice of paradise is arguably one of the most scenic locations in South Africa.


The Van Breda family were relatively new to the area. In 2014 they had returned to their home country after living in Australia for eight years and felt confident that this would be a good move since it was close by friends, family, and a good school for their teenage daughter.


Sadly, their idyllic family home became the scene of unspeakable tragedy. On Tuesday morning 27 January 2015, police arrived at 12 Goske Street to find an unthinkable sight waiting for them inside—a grisly crime had taken place and they were unprepared in their search to uncover what happened…


It was a bloodbath: four members of the Van Breda family had been attacked by a merciless assailant with an axe. It was 20-year-old Henri who called emergency services and he too, was injured. When paramedics arrived, they found three deceased family members and two survivors.


The only conscious survivor, Henri, told police that his family had been attacked by a masked intruder. But something about Henri’s story made police suspicious from the very start. What happened inside the Van Breda family home near Stellenbosch on that sultry summer’s night?


>>Intro Music


South African born Martin van Breda was a successful businessman, who was known for his integrity and his ethical approach in business. He studied engineering at Stellenbosch University and did his MBA in Pretoria. Martin was pragmatic and open-minded, and his entrepreneurial instincts quickly set him on a path to the top. One of his first ventures was vehicle tracking company, Netstar, which revolutionised stolen motor vehicle recovery in crime-ridden South Africa. 


In 1990, Martin married Teresa du Toit, an IT specialist at one of South Africa’s largest banks. Both were ambitious and career-driven, but when they started their family, Teresa gave it all up to be a full-time mom. The Van Breda family lived in the upmarket Waterkloof Heights and their children had a very privileged life, from birth. Martin had fond memories of his college years in Stellenbosch, and always wanted his children to, one day, go to study there too.


When Martin sold his brainchild, Netstar to technology giant, Altech he was ready to try something new. Always seeing opportunities in a variety of industries, Martin founded a private school in Pretoria, which he sold for millions before moving on to his next successful chapter. 


In 2005 the Van Breda family relocated to Perth when Martin took up the prestigious position of managing director and part owner of international real-estate company, Engel & Völkers in Australia. Their life of privilege continued in their adoptive country, and the three Van Breda children thrived. Many South Africans wanting to escape the violent crime migrate to Australia, so they soon had many friends in the expat community. When they moved, their eldest son Rudi was 12, Henri 10 and Marli 6.


Rudi was always a high achiever, and this continued at his new school. He was an academic, as well as sportsman, who loved rowing and motorsports. Rudi had many friends and with his bright smile and approachable demeanour, he was well-liked by everyone who knew him. After graduating from the prestigious private boys’ school in Perth, Scotch College, he left for Victoria where he enrolled to study engineering at the University of Melbourne. 


Middle-child, Henri, was the opposite to Rudi. While his brother had dark hair, Henri was blond. He was more reserved and did not excel in sports like his brother. Henri preferred gaming and socialising in smaller groups. He was academically strong and his friends called him a maths whizz. Like Rudi, Henri also went to Scotch College, and then the University of Melbourne, where he studied physics. 


Martin and Teresa’s youngest, Marli, was a smiley, sweet little girl and everyone always doted on her. She attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Perth, and like her brothers, had only the best education. 


Teresa and Martin were struggling with their sons living on the other side of the country.  So, in 2012, they decided to sell their Claremont home and moved to Australia’s east coast. Although they didn’t live in Melbourne with their sons, it was a short flight from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland where they had set up camp in a two-and-a-half million-dollar home. 


The family vacationed together, going on ski trips, and sailing adventures as often as they could. But something was still missing for Martin and Teresa, and they realised that after eight years, they were homesick. Martin always wanted to return to Stellenbosch and Teresa missed having her brothers and sisters close-by. After enjoying a safer life in Australia, people wondered why the family chose to return to South Africa, known for its crime. But the Van Bredas were determined to go back and went through a lot of effort to find a safe home. They eventually found the perfect spot to live, in the heart of the scenic Western Cape. And when Martin, Teresa and Marli returned to South Africa to live in 2014, Rudi and Henri stayed behind in Melbourne to complete their studies. 


De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate is a secure, upmarket property development on the outskirts of the charming, historic student town of Stellenbosch. Guards are on duty 24-hours a day, and unobtrusive electric fencing and security cameras secure the eight-kilometre perimeter. These security measures do not take away from the scenic beauty of their surroundings. The mountains form an imposing backdrop to the green, manicured landscape of the golf course. 


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~ Now, back to today’s episode ~


In January 2015, the whole Van Breda family was together in South Africa. Marli was attending a private school in Somerset West, Henri had dropped out of college in Melbourne and moved back in with his parents. He had announced that he was taking a ‘gap year’, but instead of travelling and working odd jobs, he just lived off his generous allowance. He squandered his opportunities and did not seem to have any concrete plans for his future. Fortunately for Henri, he had the luxury of returning home to ‘find himself’. That January, Rudi was home for the summer holidays, and due to return to Melbourne early February.


On the night of 26 January, the family had dinner together at home. After living in Australia for many years, they would most likely have marked the fact that it was Australia Day. Everyone went to bed at different times: Martin and Teresa turned in just after 9 o’clock and Rudi and Henri went to the room they shared and both watched streaming services on their laptops. Rudi went to sleep around 11. Marli was in her room and by midnight the house was quiet as everyone was asleep. Three of them would not live to see another day.


As the sun rose over the Stellenbosch winelands on the morning of January 27th 2015, Western Cape emergency services received distressing phone call from a young man called Henri van Breda. He said that his entire family was slaughtered inside their home. He was also injured but managed to fend off the attacker. 


When first responders arrived at the scene, they met Henri outside. He was smoking a cigarette when they arrived and told them that ‘the problem’ was upstairs. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror that was waiting inside: it was a bloodbath. 


Signs of a brutal attack were evident as soon as they entered the house. Blood spatter marked the stairway and the walls leading up to the landing upstairs. A paramedic who was one of the first responders at the scene said that it was the worst scene he had witnessed in 39 years. He said:


“Blood ran like a waterfall down the stairs.”


Police officers went upstairs with caution and the first body they saw was Teresa’s. Her skull had been split open and she was no longer alive. Next to her was her teenage daughter Marli, and to their surprise they noticed a small movement. Marli was still alive! The race was on to get help, to save her. It was too late for Martin and Rudi, however, who had both been hacked to death in Rudi and Henri’s bedroom. The Van Breda family was attacked with an axe, by a madman it seemed. 


Paramedics rushed Marli to hospital, where they were able to stabilise her. Of the entire family, Henri had suffered the least, and only had a couple of superficial injuries on his torso.


Teresa’s brother André and his wife Sonja took Henri into their home as the family came to terms with the unspeakable tragedy. A memorial service was held for Martin, Teresa and Rudi in their hometown of Pretoria during the first week of February. Rudi was supposed to be in Melbourne, continuing his studies, instead, his friends and family mourned his death.


There was a lot of pressure on the police to catch the ruthless killer. From the very first day police were able to assure residents of De Zalze that this was an isolated incident, and that there were no signs of breaking and entering. Security guards also confirmed that, at no point during the night, was the electric fence surrounding the entire estate breached. Being on high alert due to a bout of recent housebreaks in the area in the time leading up to the Van Breda murders, the security guards were extra vigilant. They were able to confirm that they saw absolutely no suspicious activity during the night of the murders. Although this information was meant to pacify neighbours, the implication that someone inside was behind the murders was even worse. 


The location of the Van Breda’s house was right in the middle of the estate. They had neighbouring homes all around them, in close proximity. The inside of the Van Breda home was relatively undisturbed. Downstairs were laptops, cell phones and even Teresa’s handbag in plain sight, but no one had attempted to steal it. Which meant that robbery wasn’t a motive.


Police were puzzled by the fact that an intruder embarked on an unprovoked, full-fledged murder spree. Why would the killer enter the house, walk upstairs and attack an entire family in such a brutal way? And then there was the issue with the murder weapon. The Van Breda’s maid, Precious Munyongani, claimed that the axe looked like the one they had in the pantry – to her knowledge it was brand new and had never been used. The knife that the attacker pulled on Henri was also from their own kitchen.


While investigators processed the scene, autopsies on the three victims began. 22-year-old Rudi had the most injuries. Rudi, who was lying on his left side, asleep when his attack commenced, had some defensive wounds: his pinkie finger was almost completely severed as he tried to protect his face. But the killer was towering over his victim, and Rudi had no chance of survival. His body was dragged off his bed and wrestled to the ground. The attack on Rudi was so brutal, that, through an open window, blood spatter made its way to the neighbour’s outside wall. 


Martin, whose body was found slumped over Rudi’s bed, had deep wounds in his back. Blood evidence showed that he threw his body onto Rudi’s, to serve as a human shield and protect his son. But the attacker didn’t stop and kept wielding the axe again, and again.


The commotion must have woken up Teresa and Marli, which explains why they were outside Rudi’s bedroom door. But they never managed to enter the room, as the killer launched his attack right there in the hallway. Teresa had minor defensive wounds, and it was obvious her killer’s immediate attack was so ferocious, she could not get away. She fell to her knees and was struck in the back of her head with the axe, with so much force, it shattered her skull. 


Marli had multiple head injuries, and a severed jugular vein. She was fortunate to have survived the attack but needed extensive surgery and ongoing treatment for months. Investigators insisted on regular updates from her doctors because her testimony was vital to the investigation. The thing is, although her older brother Henri told them what happened that night, some things didn’t quite add up. And police wondered if Henri van Breda was a victim and a witness or perhaps the killer… 


At the scene, Henri told police that a masked intruder broke into the house in the early hours of January 27th. Henri was in the bathroom while everyone else in his family was sleeping. When he came out of the bedroom, he saw a tall, muscular man in a ski mask walk into the bedroom he shared with his brother. Before Henri could stop him, the intruder attacked the sleeping Rudi with an axe, hacking at him over and over again. Henri called for help, at which point his dad Martin came running to Rudi’s aid. Henri, paralysed with shock was unable to move from the bathroom. He saw the assailant kill his father from where he moved on to his mother and then his sister. 


Once everyone was dead, the axeman moved in on Henri, and laughed as he aimed to hit the 20-year-old. Henri wrestled the masked man who dropped the axe and took out a knife, stabbing Henri in the torso before fleeing the scene. Henri picked up the axe and threw it at the man, but missed, and the axe wedged into the stairway wall. From the wall, it fell onto the tiles, where police found it the next morning.


Phone records showed that Henri tried to call his girlfriend, 16-year-old Bianca van der Westhuizen, a couple of times at 4:42am. She was asleep and did not answer the call. He then launched an online search to find numbers for local emergency services. 


Just a short sidenote in the South African context: emergency services are often privatised and quicker to respond. Henri had also lived in Australia in the years preceding the attack, so he could have been at a loss as to what number to call. It’s not as standardised as 9-1-1 in the States or nine-nine-nine in the UK.


That said, investigators determined that this search took place a whole three hours before Henri eventually called for help at 7am. Another option was to alert the security office at the De Zalze estate, and they would have been there in a matter of minutes. Yet he didn’t call for help.


A couple of days after the murders, Henri’s phone call was leaked to a local news outlet. It was released to the public and became the source of national scrutiny. Here is an edited clip of the actual call…


Henri: My ... my family and me were attacked ... by a guy with an axe.

Operator: With an axe… Unconscious, huh?

Henri [nervous chuckle]: Yes… and bleeding from the head.


This phone call carried on for more than 25 minutes. Henri patiently repeated himself, gave directions and politely corrected the operator when she fails to find their address on the system. There is not the faintest sense of urgency in the call. His entire family had been slaughtered. He states in the phone call that his sister is still alive, but he never raises his voice or pleads for an ambulance to rush over. He calmly asks how long it will take, and that’s it. 


When police asked Henri why he took so long to call for help he said that he had passed out and only regained consciousness just before he made the call to emergency services.


It was Henri’s calm demeanour that made police suspicious of him from the start. He spoke clearly and calmly gave his version of events, while the bodies of three of his family members were only metres away. He did not show concern for his sister, who was fighting to stay alive. He plainly went through the motions and co-operated with police, only speaking when someone asked a question.


When police met Henri at the scene, he was wearing nothing but a pair of pyjama shorts and socks and he was covered in blood. Forensic testing proved that the blood on his shorts belonged to both his parents and his brother. Could Henri have been the one who killed his parents and brother?


After many months’ intensive physical and speech therapy Marli was able to speak again. Police were eager to hear her version of what happened inside her family home that fatal night. But Marli had no recollection of the attack whatsoever. She was diagnosed with retrograde amnesia, not an uncommon condition for someone who had suffered major trauma. Marli could also not remember the week leading up to the attack and her doctors informed police that her memory may never return.


Teresa’s brother and his wife, André and Sonja, were the legal guardians of both Marli and Henri. But Marli was prohibited from seeing her brother, because she was not yet able to provide a statement about the attack When Marli was released from the rehabilitation centre, her aunt and uncle took her in, and Henri had to leave. 


He moved into a guest house, not far from their house, however, and still saw André and Sonja. He broke up with his 16-year-old girlfriend – the one he called on the night of the murders – and her family sent her overseas to get away from all the media attention. Living in the guest house, Henri hardly spoke to anyone and only left his room to smoke a cigarette at the outside pool area. For the most part he stayed in his room, lived on take-out, wine and whiskey and binge watched series on his computer.


It was five months after the murders that Henri and Marli were finally allowed to see each other, under supervision. Her doctors were concerned that if she saw him, it would trigger an emotional reaction, but this wasn’t the case. According to all reports, Marli was overjoyed to see her brother again. However, they both understood that it was a once-off meeting, until such a time that police concluded their investigation. Marli recovered well and was able to return to school later that year. 


Henri enrolled at a cooking school where he took a chef’s course. Despite the dark cloud of suspicion hanging over him, he was determined to carry on with his life. During this time, he met Daniélle Janse van Rensburg, a fellow student. She did not know who he was at first and couldn’t help but to fall in love with the handsome, quiet guy from Australia. He never spoke much about his family, and soon she understood why. Their relationship was documented by the tabloids, but they didn’t seem to care. They were a young couple in love, who enjoyed good food, wine and travelling locally. From the moment Daniella found out about the Van Breda family murders, she stood by Henri, unwavering in her support of him. 


The press was keeping an eye on Henri at this time: was he a cold-blooded killer, or was he caught up in an unspeakable tragedy. Press photographers took photos of him as he left the culinary school. They also caught him walking his sister’s dog on the beach with his uncle and his cousin. He sat, smoking a cigarette and watched the waves. No one really knew what to make of this broody, baby-faced man-child. But over time, stories about Henri surfaced, that made him appear more and more like the most feasible suspect in the murder investigation.


Behind the scenes, the net was closing in on Henri. Investigators were convinced he was the one who had attacked and killed his family, it was just a matter of gathering enough evidence to secure his conviction. Henri was questioned multiple times and always denied killing his family. 


An Australian newspaper reported that Henri had a brain tumour and that he left Melbourne to be with his family while he received treatment. The family denied this, however.


Another story surfaced in the South African news that Henri was addicted to tik, the South African street name for crystal meth. A local drug dealer told the press that Henri was a regular customer. This accusation was supported by the fact that Henri had spent time at an exclusive rehabilitation centre in Cape Town after his return to South Africa. Some of his school friends from Perth agreed that his nickname was ‘Druggie’ – a name that followed him to Melbourne. Friends also claimed that he had been in trouble with police in Melbourne regarding possession of drugs. Then a big bomb shell dropped: Henri never dropped out of college in Melbourne, he was suspended.


Henri, the physics student from a wealthy family seemed to have it all, so why would he destroy his entire family? Rumours went that his parents were threatening to cut him off financially, because of his drug addiction. Did he kill them all, hoping that he would be the sole heir to his family’s multi-million-dollar estate?


This was problematic, seeing as there was no proof of his parents’ alleged threat. Also, Henri had it good: his parents supported him financially and emotionally. He wanted for nothing – whatever he needed he received. Why would he destroy his meal ticket?


However, the finer nuances within the family needed to be studied. From family friends, investigators gathered information that Henri was always the black sheep of the family. He made no secret of the fact that he felt his parents favoured his brother Rudi over him. Introverted by nature, it was not unusual to see Henri by himself, while his family socialised. 


His drug use caused a lot of friction within the home, especially when he dropped out of school and moved back to South Africa. Teresa reportedly had many sleepless nights about Henri, and in the mornings, she was so tired, she could not take Marli to school. Martin often stepped in to take care of their lift-club commitment. A friend of Martin’s was prepared to go on record, stating that Martin had confided in him that he had found cannabis on Henri and said that he was considering stopping his allowance. 


A domestic worker who worked for another resident at De Zalze recalled Henri shouting obscenities to her one day. Margaret Delport sometimes worked as a youth counsellor and knew the signs of drug-use. She saw it in Henri. When she told a security guard about the altercation, the guard reportedly told her not to pay any attention to Henri, because he – quote…


“…has always been a nutcase.”


Teresa’s family supported Henri and were desperate to believe in his innocence. Martin’s family provided financial support, seeing as the Van Breda funds were frozen for the duration of the investigation. However, Martin’s brothers were suspicious of their nephew. Yet, respecting their brother’s memory, they footed the bill for Henri’s legal representation.


Investigators informed Henri’s lawyer of his imminent arrest and urged him to convince his client to hand himself in. On the 13th of June, a year-and-a-half after the murders, Henri van Breda surrendered himself to Stellenbosch police. He was charged with the three murders, the attempted murder of his sister Marli and defeating the ends of justice. He was released on 100,000 Rand bail the next day – that was about 7,000 US dollar at the time. He was ordered to report to his local police station regularly and he was not allowed to leave the Western Cape province.


Henri’s girlfriend, Daniélle, stood by him and refused to believe he was a cold-hearted killer. She claimed he told her everything and if he had committed this horrendous crime, there is no way he would have kept it from her. His aunt, Leenta Nel, Teresa’s sister also supported Henri. She knew the family intimately and claims that there was nothing that indicated there were problems. 


Marli was understandably distraught. She still had no recollection of that life-altering night and simply stated that justice had to take its course. 


Three months after his release, Henri and Daniélle were arrested for the possession of cannabis. His bail was set at R1000 and hers at R200. It was perhaps a minor offence, but it gave credence to the allegations that Henri was a habitual drug user.


Henri van Breda’s trial began on the 4th of April 2017, at the Western Cape High Court. He pleaded not guilty on all charges and maintained that he was a victim too. 


Everyone was eager to find out if Marli van Breda would testify at her brother’s trial. However, because her memory had not returned, her testimony was not required. She chose to stay away from the trial, not only because of the emotional trauma it presented, but also to protect her own privacy. She refused to give a victim impact statement, and with the help of her family managed to avoid the media.


However, texts between Marli and her boyfriend at the time of the incident were read out in court. It was very unsettling and gave some insight to the fact that all was not well in the Van Breda home. The tension was between Marli and her parents, who were concerned that her relationship with James Reade-Jahn was too serious and intense. Her grades were dropping and especially Teresa came down hard on her. According to James, the WhatsApp conversation followed a massive blow-up at dinner, 17 days before the murders. Although the texts were not necessarily incriminating, it gave an idea as to the dynamics within the family. Marli was a rebellious teenager, Henri was her confidante, Rudi was the eldest sibling who told her to suck it up when she felt her parents had over-stepped. James’ reaction to Marli’s recount of the fight via text was this:


“They r being assholes. Can they fuck off forever? Pls can’t u just come n live with me?”


And then James texts:


“…right now I feel like I want to murder the people that are around you at the moment and I am inches away from losing it with them and breaking down completely.”


When Marli was discharged from hospital, she did stay with James’ family for a couple of days before moving in with her uncle and aunt. When James was asked to comment on his texts in court, he said it was nothing more than a – quote: ‘indiscreet emotional response’ to a nasty fight between Marli and her family. These texts may have been enough to establish reasonable doubt as to Henri’s guilt, but the judge felt that James’ explanation was truthful.


The court heard testimony from friends, family, neighbours and investigators. A neighbour who lived next door to the Van Bredas recalled hearing loud voices from their house late that night and thought that they were arguing. The defence claimed that it was a movie on TV, with the volume turned up loud.


Against his lawyer’s advice, Henri took the stand in his own defence. He recounted the evening routine before the family went to bed and then proceeded to describe the attack, claiming that the assailant was… 


"…an axe-wielding black man, wearing dark clothes, gloves and balaclava-type mask".


There was a lot of debate about why Henri took so long to call emergency services. He was adamant that he had blacked out. His Defence pointed out that Henri was diagnosed with epilepsy two years after the murders. Supporters of Henri argued that the epilepsy could explain why he was unconscious for such a long time after witnessing his family’s murder. Did he have a seizure? The Prosecution did not think so. The blood drops from his wounds were consistent with someone sitting or standing up. If he had passed out or lain down, it would have trickled towards the floor, but it didn’t.


Prosecutor Susan Galloway agreed that it was a vicious attack. She handed Henri an axe and asked him to re-enact to the court, how the killer went about hacking his victims to death. The court fell silent as Henri took the axe and, showing no emotion, lifted it over his head and swung it downwards. At that moment, many people felt they saw exactly how it was done…


The Prosecutor stated that she believed the axe-wielding man was none other than Henri van Breda. She theorised that once all of his family members were unconscious, Henri took his time to stage the scene, get his story straight and inflict wounds to himself, so police would think he was also a victim of the mysterious, axe-wielding madman. 


However, he didn’t do a very good job at covering his tracks. Firstly, there were no foreign foot- or shoeprints in the house. If the killer left the house, he would have had to walk down the stairs, which were covered in blood. Yet no prints, other than Henri’s, led away from the scene. 


It was also definitely not a robbery-gone-wrong, as none of the family’s valuables were taken from downstairs.


Investigators did not believe that Marli and her boyfriend James were responsible for the attack, because of the severity of Marli’s injuries. Her defensive wounds were the most extensive of all the victims and it was clear that she fought for her life. A shocking revelation made during the trial, was the fact that Rudi fought to stay alive for three hours before he succumbed to his injuries. The cruelty of it all hit home for everyone following the case: Rudi, knowing that his younger brother had just slaughtered their entire family, died a long and torturous death, unable to do anything to defend his little sister. 


The pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, as the Prosecution constructed the most likely scenario of what took place at 12 Goske Street in the early morning hours of January 27th 2015. Henri was angry with Rudi for some or other reason; tensions between the brothers were always simmering beneath the surface. Once Rudi was asleep, Henri went downstairs, got the axe from the pantry in the kitchen, walked back upstairs and hacked away at his sleeping brother. 


Hearing the commotion, Martin tried to intervene, but Henri swung the axe at him too. Before Teresa could enter the room, Henri attacked her. Marli, who was probably awake when the attack began, was able to defend herself for a while, in what experts called a ‘severe and significant struggle’. But in the end, Henri overpowered her. 


Then the Prosecution presented their trump card: the blood evidence. Forensic experts agreed that Henri’s wounds were, without a doubt, self-inflicted. The knife lacerations were all similar in appearance, and did not cause a lot of injury, in fact some were only scratches. Also, he had no bruises on his body. If he had wrestled with a tall, muscular intruder, surely, he would have had some injuries other than the knife wounds.


Blood spatter evidence also did not sync up with Henri’s story. He claimed that he stood behind the bathroom door, frozen with fear. Yet there was blood from his father, his mother and his brother on his shorts. The spatter pattern proved that he was standing next to the victims during the attacks.


Once everyone was unconscious, Henri walked downstairs, throwing the axe into the wall, before carrying on down, where he lit a cigarette. He tried to call his girlfriend, but she didn’t pick up. He googled emergency numbers but didn’t make a call. He just sat there and waited for his family to ‘bleed out’. At 7:12am, the cool, calm and collected Henri finally placed a phone call to emergency services, patiently giving them directions to the crime scene, with no urgency. 


Things did not look good for Henri. His defence had some valid arguments, like the questioning the lack of Marli’s blood on Henri’s shorts. She put up a tremendous fight, and if Henri were the attacker, surely her blood would have been on him too? But it wasn’t enough to save Henri.


More than a year after the trial began, and 67 days in court, a verdict was reached. South Africa does not have a jury system and the final decision is made by the presiding judge. Justice Siraj Desai found Henri guilty on all counts. Henri stood motionless, without expression as the judge called him a cold-blooded killer.


Instead of awaiting sentencing outside of prison, Henri was taken from court, into custody. He was sent to the hospital at Pollsmoor Prison, where he received treatment for epilepsy and depression. 


Prosecutor Susan Galloway summed up the public fascination with the case:


“One would like to think that there is something wrong with a person like this… We want to know, because otherwise the possibility is there that each one of us are capable of something like this. You don’t want to believe that of yourself or the people you know and trust.”


On the 7th of June 2018, 25-year-old Henri van Breda was sentenced to three life sentences for the murders of his father Martin, his mother Teresa and his brother Rudi. He also received fifteen years for the attempted murder of his sister Marli and another 12 months for the obstruction of justice. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently.


Henri van Breda’s application to appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court in November 2018. 


The house of horrors in De Zalze, still a luxury home, was sold for 5.8 million rand – more than double the median house price in the Stellenbosch. Marli inherited the family’s entire estate of about 200 million rand – that converts to approximately 13.5 million US. Henri will never receive a cent of this. Marli and her family continue to keep a low profile. She broke up with James, in the year after the murders, and has reportedly found love again. 


There is not much one can say about a case like this… So much heartache, for no apparent reason. What caused a young man to resort to such a brutal crime? Years of resentment and jealousy? The only person who could answer this, is Henri van Breda, who is currently serving his sentence at Drakenstein Correctional Facility, a far cry from the slopes in Switzerland, the beaches of the Sunshine Coast and the vineyards of Stellenbosch…


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