Judge peppers Van Breda's lawyer with questions in closing arguments
Advocate Piet Botha tells the court 'one often doesn't know why teenagers do things'
An impassioned Advocate Piet Botha said in the High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday that his client, triple axe murder accused Henri van Breda, had been falsely accused by the state of altering his version of events as different pieces of evidence came to light.
The state had argued that Van Breda first placed himself in the bathroom when his brother and dad were attacked, and then closer and closer to the attacks once it came to light there was blood spatter on his shorts.
Botha insisted, however, that Van Breda had always intimated he was in the bedroom even if the language was a bit “garbled” in his plea statement.
Judge Siraj Desai then asked why there were no blood stains on Van Breda's upper body, and Botha said this proved their case and not that of the state: “If he was the attacker, his upper body would be drenched in blood,” said Botha.Desai also asked why Van Breda would have been wearing socks during the attack – a key part of the evidence – at the height of summer.
“I have raised four teenagers of my own,” smiled Botha. “One often doesn't know why do they things.”
Botha said that blood spatter on the left heel of the one sock would not have landed there had Van Breda been the assailant.
He said the presence of this blood in that location “either excludes him as the attacker, or the blood got there during the scuffle with the attacker”.
Earlier in the day, when the security of the estate was brought up, Desai said: “It would require the expertise of a character from Oceans 11 to get onto the estate.”
He was describing the luxury De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch, the heavily gated community where the gruesome attacks took place.
Botha had first lashed out at the state – who presented their closing arguments on Monday – by saying that their case was of “such poor quality” that it “could not be relied upon”.During his presentation, Botha argued that somebody could have dug under the electric fence to gain access to the estate.
When Desai responded that this was not a reasonable argument, Botha became so hyped up that Desai asked him to please “calm down” and added: “The volume doesn’t increase the efficacy of your argument.”
Botha then joked that he had been made aware earlier in the trial of his “booming voice” and had tried to curb it, but blamed the lapse in toning it down on his “passion for the case”.
A main thrust of Botha's argument was that the only eyewitness – or in this case, “ear”- witness – was the neighbour Stephanie Opt’hof who testified she heard males having a violent argument at the Van Breda home on the evening of the murders.
But, according to Botha, she was a “biased” witness.
He said she had been “adamant” in the witness stand that she heard males arguing “unabated” for two hours, but that in the time between the gruesome murders and the trial, she had been swayed by social media.
Botha said Opt’Hof told police on the morning of the murders that she had heard males arguing, but that only in the witness stand did she say it went on for two hours.But, said Desai: “Why would a neighbour that you don’t even know have a vested interest in being biased and testifying against you in a murder trial?”
Botha said “if it was so disturbing to her, why didn’t she call security”, but Desai said it was common in middle-class family settings that neighbours do not call police or security if they hear an altercation at someone’s home.
Botha also tried to discredit the state laboratory that had done the DNA testing by emphasising that they were not accredited and could thus not be relied upon.
But, said Desai, the defence could have “smashed the state’s case to smithereens” if they had elected to test the samples themselves in a bid to disprove the findings of the state, but had elected not to.