Cape Town - A 16-year-old girl is fighting for her life and her parents and brother are dead after they were attacked in their picturesque De Zalze Golf Estate home in Stellenbosch early on Tuesday.
A blood-spattered axe was found in the house. A 20-year-old man, with scratches running down his arms, is being questioned in connection with the attack.
There was no sign of a break-in.
Martin van Breda, 55, his wife Teresa, 54, and their three children Rudi, 22, Henri, 20 and their sister, 16, recently returned to South Africa from Perth in Australia.
Neighbours in the upmarket development, where houses can fetch around R12 million, speculated that they were no longer safe in security estates, but the estate’s homeowner’s association has called the attack “an isolated incident, confined to the scene of the crime”.
Chairman Eben Potgieter said he had checked with security and there were no signs of a break-in. He wanted to allay widespread fears that this was a home invasion.
“But we refuse to speculate on what happened. This is all we know so far.”
His expression was grim as he recounted Tuesday’s event. At around 7.30am, a police car arrived at the estate’s front gate to check on the family’s home.
There was no indication by Tuesday night who had called the police.
But Potgieter said a domestic worker, busy at the house opposite, had spotted a man on the phone. She claimed there was blood on his arms.
Security escorted the police through to the house where the bodies were found.
“We haven’t been inside so I cannot say where they were found.”
An ambulance was quickly called in, and Marli – who according to sources was barely alive after sustaining multiple wounds to her head – was rushed to hospital.
Emergency medical services spokesman Robert Daniels said it was clear the victims had been killed with an axe.
“What I can say is they were not shot, the patients were axed. The daughter was rushed to hospital with severe head trauma and a severed jugular,” Daniels said. “The other son had minor bruises on his arms. He was treated at the scene.”
Stellenbosch Medi-Clinic spokeswoman Carla Hanekom said: “We treated one patient, who is in a critical condition and is going to be transferred to Vergelegen Private Hospital. A neurosurgeon has been attending to the patient.”
On Tuesday close friend Alexander Boshoff, 19, described the Van Bredas as “a perfect family”.
Speaking outside the Medi-Clinic after hearing news of the incident, Boshoff said: “Our families often spent holidays together. We have known each other for years. Martin was one of my dad’s business partners at Curro Holdings.”
Curro Holdings owned a number of private schools in South Africa.
“They just moved back from Australia and had been back since June last year.”
Boshoff, who hails from Johannesburg but is currently studying BAccLLB at Stellenbosch University, said the Van Bredas were a “typical happy family”. “They moved around a lot because of Martin’s business, but Henri and Rudi never really complained. They were like a perfect family,” he said.
Neighbour Jasmien Sevenster, one of many who had congregated in Goske Street on Tuesday afternoon, joining the throng of media behind a barrier of fluttering yellow police tape, said: “They hadn’t been living here very long.”
The sun beamed down on the quaint neighbourhood, a collection of white houses against a backdrop of golf greens and blue skies.
“It’s scary, you know, that it happened just on our doorstep,” Sevenster said as she watched investigators move a bag of evidence to an unmarked van parked in front of the house.
One resident said he had been driving down a road in the neighbourhood at 2am on Tuesday but had heard nothing.
All police will say is they are investigating a triple homicide.
“At this stage there have been no arrests,” said police spokesman Andre Traut.
Cape Argus and Cape Times