Van Breda, accused of murdering his parents and brother with an axe, burst into tears when the audio clips of his calls to emergency services was played in court.
He claims an intruder was responsible for the attack, which also left his younger sister Marli, now 18, with a severe head injury.
At the heart of the matter was whether van Breda, 22, sobbed or giggled when he made a call to the City of Cape Town’s Emergency Communication Centre.
In the almost 30-minute long audio clip, he can be heard explaining to the operator that he needed an ambulance as his family was attacked and that they were bleeding from their heads.
As his own voice rang out in court, van Breda started crying, dropping his head and wiping tears from his eyes, leaving them red and swollen.
The operator, Janine Philander, said she received his call at 7:12am on 27 January 2015.
Philander told the court she was convinced the call was a prank because van Breda was “hesitant”, “cool as a cucumber”, “calmly gave details of the attack” and “giggled”.
“I heard what sounded to me like a giggle, and my initial thought was that it was a prank call,” said Philander.
“He sounded the same throughout the call, no up and down.”
“At that time I couldn’t get out of my head the way he sounded. He sounded hesitant.”
“If he started out shouting it would not have taken that long for a [emergency services] response."
“He also gave two addresses which made me suspicious, first the De Zalze Estate, which did not pick up on our system, and then another address which was close to where he resided.”
She became even more suspicious when Henri offered to stand outside and wait for paramedics to arrive.
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Advocate Pieter Botha told Philander that it was not a giggle she heard but in fact his client stuttering.
“You do not know my client. As a child he suffered from severe speech impairment and received extensive speech therapy. He was taught one technique to get over his stuttering and that was to speak slow and calmly. My client was not giggling, he was slightly stuttering and saying please,” Botha said.
Judge Siraj Desai asked Philander how many prank calls she receives.
“In the last six months, from September 2016- February 2017 I received over 238 350 calls, of those calls, 35 347 were prank calls,” Philander responded.
Later, Doctor Lizetter Albertse, who treated van Breda for wounds, testified that his injuries were suspicious because they appeared self-inflicted.
She could also not find any clinical proof that he was under the influence of drugs when she examined him.
The trial resumes on Thursday.