Van Breda’s defence counsel accuses prosecution of ‘ambush’

Henri van Breda’s defence counsel accused the prosecution of an “ambush” on Thursday over a pathologist’s evidence that cuts on the axe murder accused’s body were likely to have been self-inflicted.

Dr Marianne Tiemensma‚ an expert in forensic pathology and clinical forensics, testifies at the murder trial of Henri van Breda. Image by: Percivale Young via Twitter

During a heated exchange in the High Court in Cape Town‚ Judge Siraj Desai reprimanded Piet Botha‚ saying the word “ambushed” was inappropriate and harsh. “There has not been an iota of suggestion at this stage that [you] have been ambushed‚” he said.

Botha’s outburst came during testimony by Dr Marianne Tiemensma‚ an expert in forensic pathology and clinical forensics‚ who said it was interesting that Van Breda’s plea statement was so detailed when someone with concussion would probably have remembered a lot less.

The lawyer complained that proceedings had turned into a “trial by omission” because he had not been warned about statements Tiemensma would make.

This angered Galloway who said: “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.”

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Botha said she was “amplifying” parts of those reports‚ but Desai said she was entitled to do so.

After Botha said he wanted his own expert to be present for Tiemensma’s evidence‚ the pathologist was asked to return on Tuesday. A different witness will testify when the trial resumes on Monday.

Earlier‚ Tiemensma read out two reports she prepared after another doctor‚ Lizette Albertse‚ referred the Van Breda case to her.

“(Van Breda’s) wounds are superficial‚ regular‚ equal in depth‚ parallel‚ and in areas reachable to the person‚” she told the court.

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In his plea statement‚ Van Breda claimed the knife wounds were sustained in a scuffle with the alleged intruder he blames for the murders of his parents and brother and the attempted murder of his sister at their Stellenbosch home in January 2015.

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.

“These stand in strong contrast to the fatal injuries the rest of the family suffered.”

Some of Van Breda’s other injuries‚ however — including swelling above the eye‚ grazes on the back and contusions on the right leg — were less likely to have been self-inflicted.

In his plea statement‚ Van Breda said he blacked out after the attacks‚ and 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.”

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She said she could not rule out a mild concussion but testified that “Dr Albertse said there were no signs or symptoms of the after-effect of a mild concussion when she saw him (on the morning of January 27‚ 2015)”.

Sergeant Jonathan Oliphant‚ who dusted the Van Breda home in the De Zalze estate for fingerprints over three days‚ said there no prints on the handle of the axe used in the murders.

Botha said: “The state is claiming my client killed his family with this axe with his bare hands. Surely there would be some prints?”

Oliphant replied that it was possible to remove them. “If those fingerprints were wiped off‚ they won’t be found‚” he said.

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The knife used in the attacks produced three usable prints‚ including one from Van Breda.

Botha demonstrated how Van Breda’s fingerprints might have ended up on the knife in his scuffle with an alleged intruder‚ but Oliphant said he wasn’t willing to speculate.

Tiso Black Star Group/TimesLIVE

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