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‘I did not giggle’ – van Breda

Van Breda in action in the dock. Picture: Esa Alexander
Van Breda in action in the dock. Picture: Esa Alexander

Outwardly calm but sweating and controlling his breathing‚ Henri van Breda repeated minute details of his plea statement like a paint-by-numbers exercise in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

He told the court how he “distinctly remembers a laugh while [the attacker] was attacking my father“‚ who had come to help his brother Rudi‚ who was the first to be attacked with an axe.

He described how he saw his father – helping Rudi – being “hit in the head“‚ and how he had heard his mom’s voice shouting out: “Wat gaan hier aan?” [“What’s going on here?“].

When asked by his defence counsel‚ Piet Botha‚ why he had not attempted to help his father or brother‚ van Breda said: “I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I can’t specifically recall what was going through my mind at that time‚ but I certainly wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Regarding the alleged attack on him – one which the state witnesses have insisted was actually self-inflicted and not an attack at all – van Breda said that his attacker (who he thinks was a “black man” in a “balaclava“) came “slowly towards [me] and laughed again“.

He claims that the attacker’s mask was “home-made and did not have a clean stitch around the holes“‚ which had instead been cut out by hand.

He said the alleged attacker “seemed unconcerned” about his (van Breda’s) presence in the room.

“He came up rather slowly‚ but as he lifted the axe‚ I stepped forward and grabbed the axe and the hand in which he was holding the axe.”

He said that “Rudi was moving around violently on the bed“‚ shaking his arms and legs with movements that “were not goal-orientated“.

Van Breda then re-enacted the identical scene his two defence lawyers‚ Botha and Matthys Combrink‚ had acted out previously in the court: how the straight‚ superficial and parallel cuts on his arm were the result of the attacker “flicking the knife” across van Breda’s arm‚ as he tightly held the attacker’s wrist.

State witnesses have deemed those wounds self-inflicted because of those very characteristics – straight‚ superficial and parallel.

Speaking of the wounds on his chest‚ he said: “He was constantly trying to attack me with the knife – I distinctly remember him trying to cut at my throat and connecting with my chest instead.”

He calmly described how his attacker had been “distracted by fact that he was successfully stabbing me“‚ and how he had pulled the knife from his body less than a second after allegedly being stabbed.

After a scuffle that had him chasing the attacker down the stairs and throwing an axe at him‚ van Breda said: “I didn’t see where the axe ended up‚ because I lost my footing and fell down the stairs.

“I struggle to specifically remember how I fell‚ but I landed on my back near the bottom of the stairs.”

He claims he later passed out‚ but when he came to‚ he “saw Marli moving around and snapped back into consciousness” and “could again hear Rudi gurgling in the room“.

Later during the testimony‚ Botha confronted the issue of the “giggle” that was widely reported on – and discussed at length – earlier in the trial.

“I did not giggle; I said the word ‘please’‚” insisted van Breda.

After help arrived‚ he sat outside his house and an officer brought Sasha (the family dog) to him and put her on his lap.

“I was then walked to the ambulance‚ where they put a patch on my stab wound‚” he said.

Just before the lunch break‚ van Breda claimed that two officers in his company held a conversation‚ during which one said to other in a voice audible to van Breda: “Marli has been given a drug that makes her wide awake‚ and she is telling us everything.”

He also claimed that when he was taken to the doctor by the two officers‚ they asked the doctor if his wounds could be self-inflicted‚ to which she had replied: “We will see what we can do.”

The case continues.

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