A South African man has been found guilty of murdering three members of his immediate family, three years after the gruesome attack in an upscale housing estate that shocked the nation.
Henri van Breda, 23, was also found guilty of attempting to murder his sister on January 27 2015, as well as obstruction of justice. Marli van Breda, then 16, suffered severe injuries and is reported to be unable to remember the incident, in which their parents and brother died.
Van Breda was denied bail, and will be held in custody until his sentencing.
Judge Siraj Desai said after considering all the evidence, the guilty verdict was inescapable.
The verdict was delivered in the Western Cape High Court, following a lengthy judgment that detailed the evidence given in the case.
Van Breda’s trial began more than two years after his parents and older brother were killed in Stellenbosch, a scenic wine-growing region.
The family had emigrated to Australia but returned to South Africa several years ago.
After handing himself over to police in September 2016, van Breda had pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was 20 years old at the time of the attack.
His parents, Martin and Teresa van Breda, and his older brother, Rudi, died in their home in De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch.
Van Breda alleged during his trial that his family was attacked by an intruder wearing gloves, dark clothes and a balaclava in the early hours of the morning.
His defence claimed his family had spent a normal evening at home the night of the murders. Early in the morning, van Breda said he heard banging sounds in the house and opened a door to see someone attacking his brother with an axe. After he shouted for help, his father entered and accosted the attacker, who was wearing a ski mask, according to van Breda’s account. He said there may have been at least two attackers, and that he suffered minor injuries while wrestling with one of them.
Van Breda called emergency responders more than two hours after the attack, saying he had lost consciousness. In a phone call to emergency services played in court, van Breda told the operator: “My family and me were attacked by a guy with an axe.”
Van Breda, who the judge said had tampered with the crime scene in order to mislead police, was found that morning by police sitting outside the house, his clothing stained with the blood of the victims. Investigators found a bloodstained axe and kitchen knife in the house.
The judge said that in the absence of any intruder, the only reasonable inference was that van Breda wanted to mislead police and that he staged the scene of the crime.
He said van Breda had “intentionally” inflicted injuries on himself and “in order to mislead the police as to the true identity of the perpetrator”.