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Millionaire's 23-year-old son convicted of hacking parents and older brother to death with an axe

After the attack, Henri took about four hours to call the emergency services. He claimed that he did not remember the number and that he had blacked out
UPDATED FEB 21, 2020
(Source:Getty Images)
(Source:Getty Images)

A millionaire's son was found guilty on Monday of murdering his parents and older brother in a frenzied axe attack at their home in South Africa in 2015. He had pleaded not guilty and claimed that two black intruders were behind the murders.

Henri van Breda, 23, was also convicted of the attempted murder of his younger sister and of obstructing the course of justice by blaming the brutal attack on two intruders.

Henri's 68-day trial ended on Monday and, according to a report by Mirror, judge Siraj Desai found him guilty of all the charges and said, "The result was inescapable". Henri will stay in the Pollsmoor hospital wing until his sentencing in June.

The horrific incident took place on January 27, 2015 in the early hours at the family's luxurious villa in De Zalze Winelands Golf Estate at Stellenbosc, South Africa. Henri, who was just 20 years old at that time, inflicted at least 17 brutal axe wounds on the skulls and necks of his family.

Henri's father, Martin van Breda, 54, who was the managing director of an international real estate company and was described in court as a very wealthy man, died in the hall with at least five axe blows to his head and one on his neck. His mother Theresa van Breda, 55, was struck three times. Rudi, 22, Henri's older brother, had four axe wounds.

Marli, Henri's younger sister, who was then 16, suffered at least four head wounds in the attack. Her jugular artery was severed in the attack but she miraculously survived after undergoing multiple surgeries and spending six weeks in the hospital. Marli, however, suffers from retrograde amnesia and remembers nothing of the deadly axe attack. Due to her medical condition, she was not able to testify in the trial.

Henry was found with wounds on his body which the prosecution claimed were 'self-inflicted.' Henri claimed that he saw a black man in a balaclava through a gap in the bathroom door who was laughing hysterically while he hacked his older brother to death and then killed his parents. Henri claimed that, when the killer attacked his sister, he confronted him and engaged in a “life-or-death” struggle in which he suffered several light injuries.

He claimed that there were at least two masked attackers who had gained entry into their home. He said he disarmed one raider and that both then fled the property.

However, no evidence of a break-in was ever found. The family dog Sasha, who even barks at trusted staff, was not heard by the neighbors. The super secure estate, 25 miles from Cape Town, has electrified fencing all around, security gates, 24-hour dog patrols and CCTV cameras.

After the attack, Henri took about four hours to call the emergency services. He claimed that he did not remember the number and that he had blacked out. Police reports said that there were no signs of a break in and no sign of anything having been stolen. They added that broad inquiries showed that the family had no enemies.

Prosecutor Susan Galloway told the court that the victims must have known their killer since none of them had tried to hide or escape or call for help. She described Henri's account to the court as 'well-rehearsed' and ‘far-fetched’.

In June 2016, after Henri was arrested for possession of cannabis, rumors appeared in local papers that Henri was a drug addict and that his parents had cut off his allowance. It was in the same month that he was formally arrested for murdering his parents and his brother and for attempting to murder his sister.

Under South African law, a person is now allowed to benefit financially from a crime and, hence, the £12 million family fortune will not be split equally between Henri and sister Marli.

Instead of a life of luxury, Henri will now be sent to Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. The prison which was built for 4,336 men now has over 7,000 dangerous criminals and is allegedly run by gangs.

Henri will be kept in the hospital wing of the prison and will receive treatment for epilepsy and depression until his sentencing in June.