Henri van Breda Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA

Cape Town - Henri van Breda has been found guilty of the murder of his parents and brother and the attempted murder of his sister, as well as one count of obstructing justice, in a mammoth trial that grabbed international headlines. 

Judge Siraj Desai delivered the verdict in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

The 23-year-old stood accused of murdering his parents, Martin and Teresa, and older brother Rudi. He was also charged with the attempted murder of his sister Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, and who the State argued survived because of a "miracle" rather than a lesser attack.

In addition, Henri van Breda faced a charge of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly staging the crime scene and inflicting wounds on himself to make it look like he too had been a victim in the attack.

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The attack in the family home at the luxury De Zalze security estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015, shocked the country, and the sensational trial dominated headlines, running for over 60 days.

Van Breda claimed a laughing, axe-wielding intruder, also armed with a knife, and wearing a balaclava and gloves was behind the vicious attacks and pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

In final arguments, Advocate Piet Botha, for Van Breda, insisted that this version was reasonably possibly true and dismissed the State's "narrative", saying evidence it presented was of "poor quality" and that it had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

He was at pains to point out that crime is a daily occurrence in South Africa and argued that the "mere fact that there was gratuitous, terrible violence does not mean it can be inferred that it was someone close to them".

In reply to the defence's arguments, senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway said contrary to the defence's assertions, the State's case was not that the security estate was impenetrable, but rather that there "was no evidence of unlawful entry or anyone entering undetected".

Furthermore, there were no big holes in the fence at the time of the incident, nothing suspicious was noted, there had been no reports from the control room nor residents, and nothing was stolen from the family home. 

She said four out of five members of the Van Breda family were brutally attacked and left for dead, yet the accused was left standing, having lived through the event. His injuries, allegedly self-inflicted, "were different to the rest of the family". 

"The only reasonable inference is that the accused is the attacker." 

African News Agency/ANA