Freshly sheared but with his cow-lick fringe still in place‚ Henri van Breda dozed off in the dock in the high court in Cape Town on Monday as he listened to the drawn-out testimony of his own defence’s DNA expert‚ Dr Antonel Olckers.
Van Breda is on trial for the gruesome murder of his parents and brother‚ and the attempted murder of his sister Marli‚ at their luxury home at the De Zalze estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015.
This was the first day of the defence leading evidence-in-chief after more than 40 days of the state doing so before a short break.
Olckers‚ who heads DNAbiotec‚ was questioned by defence counsel Matthys Combrink.
She described how over 1‚900 documents had been handed to her for analysis‚ and claimed in court on Monday that the SAPS forensic laboratory that tested DNA samples from the axe murders scene did not follow all the right procedures.
This comes several weeks after Lieutenant-Colonel Sharlene Otto – with her signature no-nonsense style in the witness stand‚ her dangerous stilettos and Jackie Kennedy jackets — testified that DNA from Van Breda’s mother Teresa and his brother Rudi were found on scrapings of his fingernails and in bloodstains on his shorts‚ and that “no unknown DNA was found on the crime scene”.
During her testimony before the hiatus in the trial‚ Otto testified that 216 DNA samples were analysed in the Van Breda murder case‚ but Olckers claims that her organisation only received data for 151 of those.
She also said that‚ according to SOPs (standard operating procedures)‚ a minimal amount of 1 nano-gram of DNA evidence (in this case‚ blood) was required for a reliable result – yet of the 151 samples detailed‚ 111 were within those parameters and 40 were not.
She explained that personnel at the laboratory had erred in allowing samples from the Van Breda case following one another on the work list when they should rather be separated to prevent cross-contamination.
There has been no suggestion yet in court that such cross-contamination had occurred‚ but according to Olckers‚ it indicated a contravention of the SOPs.
“In this batch‚ the reference samples of Henri van Breda and Marli van Breda followed each other on the list. If personnel contaminate with own DNA‚ it will show up. But cross-contamination across samples within a case is a cause for concern when they follow one another on the work list‚” said Olckers‚ who described it as a case of non-conformance.
She added that instances of “non-conformance should always be registered and rectified thereafter” and that the laboratory should follow its own SOPs and repeat the tests if it fails to do so.
Finally‚ she repeated what the defence counsel had presented to the court during the state leading evidence in chief: “The FSL is not accredited” she said‚ adding that such “lack of accreditation means there is no standardised independent audit” that has been done.
Earlier in the trial‚ Otto pointed out that the FSL had desperately wanted to be audited but that in her 24 years there‚ they were still waiting for that to happen and that it wasn’t for lack of trying.