Former Australian student found guilty of family's axe murder

A former Perth student has been found guilty of murdering three members of his family three years after the gruesome attack took place in their home in South Africa.

Henri van Breda, 23, was also found guilty of attempting to murder his sister in the family’s mansion in Stellenbosch, east of Capetown, as well as obstruction of justice.

Marli van Breda, then 16, suffered severe injuries and is reported to be unable to remember the incident on January 27 2015, in which their parents and brother died.

Van Breda, a South African native, was denied bail and will be held in custody until his sentencing.

Judge Siraj Desai said after considering all the evidence, the guilty verdict was inescapable.

Henri van Breda arrives in the High Court in Cape Town, South Africa on Monday, May 21, 2018 to hear the verdict in his case. Source: AAP
Martin van Breda, 55, his wife Theresa, 54 and 22-year-old son Rudi were all found slain on the family’s estate, while Marli, 16, was taken to Stellenbosch Medi-Clinic with severe injuries. Source: 7 News

The verdict was delivered in the Western Cape High Court, following a lengthy judgment that detailed the evidence given in the case.

Van Breda’s trial began more than two years after his parents and older brother were killed in Stellenbosch, a scenic wine-growing region.

The family had emigrated to Australia but returned to South Africa several years ago.

After handing himself over to police in September 2016, van Breda had pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was 20 at the time of the attack.

His parents, Martin and Teresa van Breda, and his older brother, Rudi, died in their home in De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch.

Van Breda alleged during his trial his family was attacked by an intruder wearing gloves, dark clothes and a balaclava in the early hours of the morning.

Van Breda sits in the High Court as he awaits to hear the verdict in his case. Source: AAP
The 23-year-old was found guilty almost three years after the gruesome murders took place. Source: AAP

He called emergency responders more than two hours after the attack, saying he had lost consciousness.

In a phone call to emergency services played in court, van Breda told the operator: “My family and me were attacked by a guy with an axe.”

Van Breda, who the judge said had tampered with the crime scene in order to mislead police, was found that morning by police sitting outside the house, his clothing stained with the blood of the victims.

Investigators found a bloodstained axe and kitchen knife in the house.

The judge said in the absence of any intruder, the only reasonable inference was that van Breda wanted to mislead police and he staged the scene of the crime.

He said van Breda had “intentionally” inflicted injuries on himself and “in order to mislead the police as to the true identity of the perpetrator”.