On Wednesday, Henri van Breda was found guilty of murdering his parents and brother in a brutal axe attack, and seriously injuring his sister, at their Stellenbosch home in 2015. Van Breda had maintained during the trial that his family was killed during a botched robbery. But Judge Siraj Desai did not buy it, and found that the robbery defence was not true.
Van Breda was also found guilty of defeating the ends of justice for tampering with the crime scene, and injuring himself to make it seem as if he had also been attacked during the murders. He was described as an unimpressive witness, according to Eyewitness News.
Van Breda was taken into custody and will be sentenced on June 5.
Here are the lies Van Breda told that ultimately sent him to jail.
1. There was an intruder
Van Breda's defence rested on his claim that there was a balaclava-wearing intruder that night, wielding a knife and an axe, who had committed the crimes and attacked him, before fleeing the scene.
Desai found there was no breach of security on the night of the murders, and said it was "highly unlikely" that someone would have been able to breach the security perimeter of the fortified estate, TimesLive reported.
Desai also reportedly said that while it was not impossible to breach the security of the estate, it would require a reasonable amount of skill and knowledge of the security systems and layout of the estate, as well as planning, according to News24.
Desai also agreed with the State that there was no evidence of unlawful entry to the estate – according to IOL, there was no evidence of forced entry like a hole in the fence, and there were no reports of anything unusual from the security control room or other residents at the estate. Nothing was stolen from the family home, either.
The judge noted evidence from workers and neighbours on the estate, that the estate was incredibly difficult to breach thanks to CCTV cameras, an electric fence, security patrols day and night, and an alarm system, Daily Maverick reported.
2. Sasha, the family dog, did not bark.
Curiously, Van Breda told the court that the family dog, Sasha, did not bark at the "intruder" on the night of the murders. During cross-examination, in November 2017, Van Breda said Sasha was the "opposite of a guard dog" and would not have barked at unusual sounds in the house, according to an IOL report at the time.
But the dog was known to bark at the family domestic worker, State prosecutor Susan Galloway reportedly pointed out. Van Breda reportedly tried to explain this by saying the dog barked at the domestic worker because she played with her, and Sasha found this "exciting".
Desai found this highly unusual.
3. This was a robbery
In the first place, the choice of an axe was a "strange" choice of weapon to take to a robbery, according to News24.
Daily Maverick reported that Desai agreed with the State, that the axe and knife used by the attacker were from the Van Breda house.
"There was no reason for an intruder to wipe out almost an entire family. The violence prevalent in the country does not serve as a convincing explanation. If the intention of intruders was to kill everyone, it would be senseless not to bring along a weapon," he reportedly said.
And it was odd that nothing was stolen from the estate, Desai found, according to IOL.
"No evidence exists to indicate a specific motive for killing any of the ... family members, whether they were killed by an unknown intruder or the accused," Desai reportedly said.
During the trial, Van Breda was asked about this while on the stand. According to IOL, Van Breda thought it was possible that nothing was stolen because the "intruder" had been "interrupted".
But police officers who attended the scene reportedly said the house was neat, and looked nothing like a house that was the scene of an attempted robbery.
4. Van Breda was also attacked
Van Breda had claimed that he was involved in an altercation with the attacker, during which he was also injured.
According to TimesLive, Desai said it did not make sense that an attacker would murder a whole family and leave one person virtually unharmed. He also said it was strange that Van Breda did not try to help or comfort his family members after the attacks, displaying a "peculiar lack of empathy". After the attacks, Van Breda phoned his teenage girlfriend, instead. And his phone call to the emergency services after the attacks had shown a "lack of urgency", Desai reportedly said, which seemed "highly unusual for a traumatised victim".
Crucially, Van Breda had injuries on his body that were "different to the rest of the family", IOL reported.
According to News24, Desai said it was strange that Van Breda sustained injuries that were completely different to his family members, despite supposedly being attacked by the same person with the same intent. The evidence also showed, conclusively, that most of his wounds were self-inflicted, and that the defence was not able to contradict the State on this point, despite having their own expert witnesses.
"The cut marks on [Van Breda's] chest were superficial and nonfatal. Incisions had an equal depth, were parallel and avoided sensitive areas like nipples. The chest injuries were in a reachable area for self-infliction," Desai said.