Cape Town (AFP) – In a case that has gripped South Africa, the 22-year-old scion of a wealthy family goes on trial in Cape Town on Monday, accused of slaughtering his family in a frenzied axe attack.
The case has also made headlines internationally, as police failed to arrest anyone for the grisly killings until Henri van Breda handed himself in.
Van Breda is alleged to have killed his brother Rudi and parents Martin and Teresa and left his sister Marli struggling with nightmarish injuries.
The events took place at the family’s luxury home at an exclusive golf estate in Stellenbosch outside Cape Town, where they lived after returning from several years in Australia. The family’s fortune is estimated at $16 million.
Van Breda faces three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
In the courtroom, prosecutors will probe what happened in the fateful early hours of January 27, 2015.
According to media reports, Rudi, a 21-year-old engineering student, was found on a blood-soaked bed next to his father, 54.
Both were killed by savage blows from the axe.
His mother, 55, was found with a gaping head wound on the bedroom’s balcony.
Marli, 18, suffered horrific brain, throat and neck injuries.
– Emergency call –
Van Breda called the emergency services some hours after the attack.
In a leaked tape of the call, he said his family members were “bleeding from the head” before he appeared to giggle briefly.
He himself had minor bruises and scratches, which experts say may have been self-inflicted.
Van Breda reportedly told detectives that a stranger was responsible for the attack in the high-security residential complex, while he hid in a bathroom.
Van Breda appeared in Western Cape High Court in Cape Town last month, when the state asked for more time to gather witness statements and prepare evidence.
Dressed in a suit, he appeared calm and expressionless during the hearing.
He has been on $8,000 bail awaiting the trial while living with his girlfriend.
Marli van Breda was left in a coma after the attack and suffered memory loss, but she may give evidence during the trial.
Her legal representative, Louise Buikman, has said she was “well and progressing remarkably given the incident, her injuries and the ordeal that she has had to suffer”.
The trial, offering potentially dramatic details about inner life of an elite but apparently troubled family, has generated intense media interest.
There is a continuing legal battle over whether it can be broadcast live on television.
Local reports suggested van Breda, had spent time in drug rehabilitation before the deaths. He was enrolled as a science undergraduate at the time of the events.
He handed himself in to a local police station 18 months after the attack, during which time the police had made no arrests.