Triple axe-murder accused Henri van Breda’s defence on Monday called expert witness Dr Mike du Trevou. to testify in the Cape Town High Court. The neurosurgeon told the court Henri may have suffered from post-traumatic amnesia after “passing out” and waking up about two hours after the attack.
It might not be a word he has heard before‚ but on Monday Henri van Breda sat quietly in court while a witness for the defence conceded he might have been “malingering”.
This means “faking an illness in order to get out of one’s duty”.
Dr Mike Du Trevou‚ the neurosurgeon testifying for the defence‚ said it could not be ruled out that murder accused Van Breda had made up his story that he lay passed out at the bottom of the stairs for two hours and 40 minutes after his family had been brutally attacked at their luxury home in 2015 – leaving three of them dead.
Senior state prosecutor Susan Galloway had taken the doctor through the other possible causes of a loss of consciousness in order to see if they could all be eliminated.
Van Breda has no “medical condition” that could explain it. He was “not on medication” that could have caused it. If it was a vasovagal attack (a fainting episode) he would have felt better “the minute he was horizontal” and the blood rushed back to his head.
He also had made “no mention” to the doctor who examined him of the alleged two hours and 40 minutes he claims he was out cold.
The only one he would not exclude – other than malingering – was a possible mild to moderate “physical injury” which could exist yet still not show up on his MRI which came back normal.
Judge Siraj Desai asked if it was possible that Van Breda did not in fact lose consciousness or get concussed at all‚ and Du Trevou said yes‚ this was possible.
Galloway asked whether he had examined the accused himself‚ or had seen all the evidence presented by the state.
He said he had not‚ so Galloway asked if he had been asked “blindly” to comment‚ and he conceded that he had.
The other major issue in court on Monday was whether Rudi van Breda had himself moved off the bed towards a nearby door (as claimed by the defence) or whether his dead body had possibly been dragged there (as claimed by the state).
Du Trevou also said that Rudi’s motor cortex was intact and thus it could not be excluded that the victim was capable of some – albeit very “limited” – movement after the brutal attack.
“I could say he could have moved. I can’t say whether he did move‚” said Du Trevou.
It is very likely his vision had been badly damaged‚ as well as his speech‚ frontal lobe‚ and several other parts of his head and brain‚ but his “brain stem” and “motor cortex” (the area responsible for movement) were still intact.
It is also possible he “suffered convulsions” prior to death.
He said‚ “none of these cerebral injuries would have caused immediate death” but he would not take it further. He said he could not speculate on how long Rudi might have suffered between the attack and his death. “I have no idea how long he could have survived after sustaining his injuries‚” said Du Trevou.
Regarding sounds that Rudi made after the attack: It is common cause that the victim was “gurgling” for some time after the attack‚ but this could not be attributed to an attempt to speak. It was far more likely from air from his lungs making its way through blood that had pooled in his throat.
The case continues.