Cuts on murder accused Henri van Breda likely ‘self-inflicted’‚ court hears
An expert pathologist told a riveted court room on Thursday how the cuts on murder accused Henri van Breda’s body were very likely “self-inflicted“.
Dr Marianne Tiemensma‚ an expert in forensic pathology and clinical forensics‚ read out the two reports she had written after another doctor‚ Dr Lizette Albertse‚ had referred the Van Breda case to her.
“The wounds are superficial‚ regular‚ equal in depth‚ parallel‚ and in areas reachable to the person‚” she told the court.
She explained how she had received a written request from Dr Lizette Albertse — who had examined Van Breda on the morning after the murders — as Albertse had not felt qualified to state whether the wounds were self-inflicted or not as requested by Colonel Deon Beneke.
Tiemensma also received photographs of the wounds‚ and the suspected weapons to examine.
In his plea statement‚ Van Breda claimed the wounds were from a scuffle with the alleged intruder.
But‚ Tiemensma said: “It is unlikely for the victim being attacked to stand still for wounds of that nature to be made. Those are not typical areas where one would find defensive wounds.”
She added later: “These stand in strong contrast to the fatal injuries the rest of the family suffered.”
Some of the other injuries‚ however‚ which were not of a stabbing or cutting nature‚ were less likely to be of a self-inflicted nature.
This included swelling above the eye‚ grazes on the back‚ and contusions on the right leg.
She said she could not say whether these were from a fall or blunt force.
On whether he had blacked out or not as described in Van Breda’s plea statement‚ Tiemensma said: “If someone loses a lot of blood‚ they could go into shock from blood loss. He had not lost enough blood for that to happen.”
Another reason one might faint would be from a type of panic attack‚ or as Tiemensma calls it‚ a vasovagal attack‚ described by the Mayo Clinic as an episode that occurs when “you faint because your body overreacts to certain triggers‚ such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress“.
But‚ said Tiemensma‚ as soon as you faint from this‚ the blood rushes to your head and you immediately come round again.
She said she could not‚ however‚ rule out a mild concussion but testified that “Dr Albertse said there were no signs or symptoms of the aftereffect of a mild concussion when she saw him that morning“.
Tiemensma also said she found it interesting that Van Breda’s plea statement was so detailed when someone with a concussion would likely have remembered a lot less than that.
This infuriated his defence counsel Piet Botha who then brought the court to a halt‚ accusing state advocate Susan Galloway of “ambushing“’‚ and “disadvantaging [my client]‚ and telling Judge Siraj Desai it had turned into a “trial by omission“.
He said he had not been privy before hand to the statements that Tiemensma would be making in court.
This angered Galloway who said‚ “With respect my lord‚ Mr Botha has a copy of both reports‚ of the plea statement‚ and of Dr Albertse’s report and that is all my witness is referring to.”
Botha said she was “amplifying” parts of those reports‚ but Desai said she was entitled to do so.
Then‚ during a very heated exchange‚ Desai reprimanded Botha‚ saying that the word “ambushed” was inappropriate and harsh‚ and that “there has not been an iota of suggestion at this stage that [you] have been ambushed“.
Desai told Botha that if he genuinely felt he had a case that he had been “ambushed“‚ Desai would adjourn for however much time he needed to put a case forward that this had happened.
Botha said they could continue‚ but when her testimony resumed‚ Botha objected again saying that it was unfair that his own expert pathologist could not be present at the same time to give a different perspective.
Galloway said it had been impossible to find a mutually beneficial time.
After a short break‚ a compromise was made and the two opposing pathologists were scheduled for Tuesday.
The case‚ however‚ will continue on Monday with a different witness.
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