Axe-murder accused Joseph Ntshongwana is seen inside the Durban High Court. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Durban - All was not well with former Blue Bulls player Phindile Joseph Ntshongwana in the weeks before he allegedly committed murder, the Durban High Court heard on Tuesday.

His sister Luleka Ntshongwana testified that he was usually a loud, vibrant and talkative person, but in the period leading up to February and March 2011 his behaviour was inconsistent.

Asked under cross-examination what concerned her about her brother's behaviour, she said: “It would be the loud silence.”

Even when he called her over the phone he would suddenly go silent.

“Sometimes he phases between someone we know and being a complete stranger.”

Ntshongwana is charged with the murder of Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu in Montclair on March 20 2011, Paulos Hlongwa two days later, Simon Ngidi the following day, and an unidentified man sometime that week. All were hacked to death with an axe.

He is also accused of kidnapping and raping a woman on November 28 2010, and of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He faces two further charges of attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

The woman, who cannot be named, was kidnapped in central Durban and held captive for three days.

In December 2010 she told the court that she was staying with her parents at their home in Durban's Yellowood Park suburb for the festive season.

Luleka said that during that time police were called to take her brother to King George V hospital.

It was also the same time that she had heard there was a complaint from a woman who had accused her brother of rape.

She said that she thought the complaint had been made by an ex-girlfriend.

But his behaviour of locking himself up in his room and not eating his meals had prompted her to call the police to take him to hospital.

Luleka said that she was aware that his treatment had been changed since he was in custody.

She said that “before the (new) treatment he would not respond. He would not have anything to say”.

Luleka said that she believed he had been on the new treatment for the past two months.

“For a while now, he is responding. He's conversant, I would say.”

The trial continues.