An intruder dressed in dark clothes, gloves and a balaclava hacked his parents and brother to death and nearly killed his sister two years ago, triple murder accused Henri van Breda told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
The 22-year-old, who pleaded not guilty to all the charges including defeating the ends of justice, gave his version of events of what had transpired at their De Zalze Estate home on 27 January, 2015.
In his plea explanation, read to Judge Siraj Desai by his advocate Pieter Botha, Van Breda claimed he had needed to use the toilet long after the family had gone to bed.
He had taken his cellphone with him.
"I am unsure of how long I was in the bathroom, when I suddenly heard several banging sounds that sounded close by."
He was startled by the loud noise, pulled up his pants and moved to the bathroom door, which he had only closed partially.
Van Breda claimed to have looked toward where the sound was emanating from, which was the vicinity of his brother, Rudi's bed.
"I could make out the silhouette of someone standing next to or partially on Rudi's bed [between our two beds]. This person was busy attacking Rudi with an object, which later transpired to be an axe."
He initially "stood frozen" before shouting for help to attract attention.
"I cannot remember what words I used. I also cannot recall whether I remained in the same position throughout the attack on Rudi," Van Breda said.
'My dad was struck with the axe'
The lights were then turned on and he saw his father enter the room while the attack on Rudi was taking place.
"My dad immediately moved towards and onto the bed, over Rudi, towards the attacker, who was on the opposite side of the bed. It looked as if he was trying to tackle the attacker or at least get between the attacker and Rudi.
"However, my dad was struck with the axe as he lunged towards the attacker. His body went limp on the bed and I did not see him move again."
The attacker nevertheless hit him a number of times with the axe, and Henri said he recalled the intruder "laughing whilst he attacked my dad".
"I suddenly heard my mom's voice outside our room, saying 'Wat gaan hier aan? [What's happening here?]' I assume that the attacker must have heard it too, because he then left the room. I could not see what happened outside the room as my view of the door was obstructed by our bedroom wall."
The man ostensibly remained outside his field of vision for some time -- "I am unsure how long, but it was not long" -- and he could not recall whether he could hear the attack on his mother.
Van Breda did not indicate when he went into their bedroom, but said that the attacker came back into the room and "slowly came at me".
"At that stage, I was standing close to the bottom end of my bed. He was laughing and seemed almost unconcerned about my presence. I stepped forward and grabbed his wrist and right hand, in which he was carrying the axe, with both my hands.
"I managed to wrestle the axe from his grip and shoved him away from me, towards the bottom end of Rudi's bed."
The push, Henri claimed, resulted in the attacker spinning round and away from him.
"I was surprised at how easy I was able to disarm him.
"I remember seeing Rudi moving about on his bed in my peripheral vision. He was also making what seemed like gurgling noises."
When the attacker came at him again, the man grabbed Van Breda's right forearm holding the axe, he said.
"At the same time, he lifted his right hand and I then saw that he had a knife in his [it]. I do not know where he got the knife from or when and how he got in possession of [it].
"His attack was slow again and I was able to grab [his forearm of the hand holding the knife] with my left. We pushed and pulled one another, stepping back and forth next to the gap between the feet of the beds.
"He cut and slashed at my chest and also stabbed at my chest. He also slashed at my left arm. I was still holding onto his right forearm, which prevented him from inflicting serious harm."
Van Breda was ostensibly hurt when the attacker moved the arm holding the knife in a way that twisted his left hand.
"He started to stab at me with the knife, but initially I was still able to prevent him from stabbing me. I realised that I would not be able to keep a grip with my hand twisted and hurting, so I struck his right shoulder with the axe in an attempt to make him let go of the knife.
"Despite this, he managed to stab me with the knife on my left side, almost at the same time that I struck him with the axe."
It was only then that Van Breda allegedly realised he had been holding the axe backwards, striking the attacker with the blunt side.
"After I struck him, he let go of the knife and my right arm and retreated. I immediately pulled the knife out of my side and dropped it..."
The man fled the room and he hesitated before following him, Van Breda said.
Out of the corner of his eye, he apparently saw Rudi moving around on his bed "rather violently" and hearing what sounded like angry voices of more than one person elsewhere in the house.
"Although I could not distinguish specific words, it sounded like the persons were speaking Afrikaans," Van Breda said.
"As I [left] the room, I recall having a glimpse of Marli and my mom lying immediately outside the bedroom door, on the top landing connecting our bedrooms... I saw the attacker near the middle landing of the flight of stairs. I am not a fast runner and did not think I would be able to catch him. I then threw the axe at him."
He did not see where or what the axe struck, his plea explanation read.
During the pursuit, he fell down the stairs, Van Breda said.
"I got up and moved towards the kitchen area. I saw that the kitchen door was open. At that stage I did not know how many persons had been in the house, but there must have been at least two.
"I went out the back door only far enough to look down the side wall of the house. I could not see anyone and went back inside the house."
The State, however, accuse Van Breda of the bloody murder of his parents, Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and his Rudi, 22. His sister Marli sustained a serious head injury, but survived.
An inspection of the family's former home is expected to take place on Tuesday.