The 22-year-old son of a wealthy South African family has denied slaughtering his parents and brother in a frenzied axe attack.
Henri van Breda is alleged to have killed his brother Rudi and parents Martin and Teresa, and left his sister Marli fighting for her life at the family’s luxury home on an exclusive golf estate in Stellenbosch near Cape Town.
The killings on 27 January 2015 and subsequent investigation gripped South Africa as police failed to make arrests and Marli, then 16, was given police protection amid fears the attacker was still at large.
Van Breda appeared at Western Cape High Court dressed in a suit and tie and quietly replied “not guilty” as he faced three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
In a statement read out by his lawyer Pieter Botha, he said that a masked intruder had entered the house and attacked his family with an axe in the early hours of the morning.
The accused said he could “make out the silhouette of somebody” attacking his brother in the high-security property.
“I shouted for help, shouting to attract attention,” he said.
Van Breda said his father came into the room “trying to tackle the attacker”.
He said: “My father was struck as he lunged towards the attacker. He was hit a number of times… I also recall the attacker was laughing.”
Van Breda said he heard his mother’s voice, and then the intruder left the room.
Rudi, a 21-year-old engineering student, was reportedly 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.
In his statement, van Breda said he had passed out after disarming the attacker, who then fled from the house.
He said: “I later woke lying on the stairs. I was unsure how long I was unconscious… I could see it was light. I then saw Marli moving. I could also hear what sounded like Rudi making gurgling sounds.”
Adrian Kleynhans, the first police officer on the scene, told the court he had found Henri van Breda covered in blood.
He said there no sign of forced entry at the house, and he found a small axe at the scene.
Van Breda said the family – whose fortune was estimated at £12.5m – had spent the evening of the attack watching a film, while their mother spoke on the phone.
In a leaked tape of van Breda’s call to emergency services, he said his family members were “bleeding from the head” before he appeared to giggle briefly.
He suffered only minor bruises and scratches in the attack – wounds some experts suggest may have been self-inflicted.
He handed himself in to a local police station 18 months after the killings.
Marli was left in a coma and suffered memory loss – but she may give evidence in the trial.
Since his arrest, van Breda, who was then a student, has been on $8,000 bail while living with his girlfriend.
The trial will continue on Tuesday with a visit to the house.