HIS defence team painted a picture of a young man who "mumbled" and "stuttered" under pressure but when accused triple killer Henri van Breda finally took the stand yesterday, there was no sign of a speech impediment.
The former Sunshine Coast man has recounted the night his father, mother and brother were bludgeoned to death with an axe in their Cape Town mansion on January 27, 2015.
Van Breda, who turns 23 today, has pleaded not guilty to the murders, which he claims were carried out by a masked intruder who "laughed" as he carried out the grisly attack.
His sister Marli, now 19, was the only other survivor and sustained serious injuries which left her unable to recall what transpired that night or who carried out the murders.
It is the first time the public has heard van Breda speak since the trial opened at the Western Cape High Court in April.
The former University of Melbourne student is alleged to have killed his 21-year-old brother Rudi and parents Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and left Marli struggling with near-fatal injuries to the head, neck and throat.
He showed no emotion as he narrated his version of the night his family was hacked to death at their home on in the grounds of a secure golf estate in Stellenbosch, according to the Times Live.
"I saw the silhouette of someone ... the person was busy attacking, swinging an object at where Rudi was laying," he told the court in testimony live-streamed on local television.
His demeanour was in direct contrast to his lawyer Piet Botha's description of a young man who suffered from a speech impediment that became "much worse" when he was "under pressure".
Mr Botha had applied for the live-streaming cameras to be turned off during Van Breda's testimony on the grounds that he would "stutter"‚ "mumble" and "hesitate"‚ and that this could work against him.
Judge Siraj Desai denied the application and when Van Breda stepped into the witness stand on the 55th day of his trial on Tuesday on the eve of his 23rd birthday, he was articulate.
State prosecutor Susan Galloway opened her cross-examination by commenting on his calm
"Mr Van Breda‚ I did not hear you stutter at all. Not even once," she told the court.
Asked if he had killed his parents and brother with an axe, he repeatedly replied "no", saying he had no reason "whatsoever" to murder anyone in his "close-knit" family, whose fortune has been estimated at US$16 million.
Van Breda claimed he was using the toilet while also playing games on his phone when he heard an intruder break in.
Under cross-examination, he described the angle at which an alleged attacker had held the knife which he said was used to cut his chest and arms‚ and described his brother Rudi's flailing around as he gurgled on the bed after the attack as being "violent rather than goal-orientated movements".
Van Breda said the police officers who took a statement from him did not explain that it would "become a legal document".
Earlier, Mr Botha asked if it had attempted to wash away any blood from his hands or body in the hours after the murders.
"No‚" Van Bredae replied.
"Why did you not come to the aid of your dad and your mum and your brother?" Mr Botha asked. "Would you like to try and explain?"
"I wish I could. I wish I did. But I was too scared‚" Van Breda replied.
He said the traces of his blood found in the bathroom were probably from "shaving in the shower"‚ and that he had "never before seen the axe" that was found at the scene of the murders.
He said he survived the attack with superficial stab wounds inflicted as he wrestled the attacker who was trying to slit his throat.
The state insists the wounds were self-inflicted.
On why he did not call for help from neighbours during the attack, Van Breda replied: "in hindsight, it's something I should have done".
Instead, he first phoned his girlfriend, before looking up the emergency numbers.
In a leaked tape of his call to emergency services, Van Breda could be heard telling an operator that his family members were "bleeding from the head".
He also giggled during the call although in court he denied ever laughing, the Times Live reported.
Police failed to arrest anyone until Van Breda handed himself in to authorities 18 months after the attack which shocked South Africa.
The Van Breda family lived in Perth for many years before returning home to South Africa in 2014.
Henri Van Breda is expected to return to the witness stand when the trial resumes today.
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