Triplemurder accused Henri van Breda. Picture: ANA

Cape Town -  When triple murder accused Henri van Breda first took the stand in the Western Cape High court on Tuesday morning, he repeatedly wiped the sweat from his brow and appeared to be distressed. 

Judge Siraj Desai adjourned court proceedings to allow him to compose himself. After the break, van Breda meticulously repeated the details of his plea explanation, sometimes almost word for word.

Earlier, Van Breda described his family as "very close": "We shared everything with each other. We certainly enjoyed spending time as a family, especially at that time of year".

Read: #VanBredaTrial: Henri struggles on the stand

Van Breda neighbour heard nothing on night of axe attacks

He said older brother Rudi's girlfriend had recently been staying with them and had left to return to Melbourne where they were both studying. Rudi was due to join her two weeks after the murders which took place in January 2015. 

Van Breda said that on the evening of January 26, 2015, the family had had dinner together. After dinner his father worked for a while on his laptop, his mother was on the phone to her brother and his sister Marli, 16, was upstairs doing homework as it was a school night. 

He later watched Star Trek 2 with his father and brother and then retired to the bedroom he shared with his brother where they watched movies on their laptops. Unable to sleep, he listened to music on his cellphone and then went to the toilet "to move my bowels".

Defence lawyer Piet Botha pointed out that photographic evidence showed that he had not flushed or wiped himself because he was interrupted by a noise.

Van Breda said: "I could tell the sounds were coming from the room and I could see the silhouette of someone standing in between our two beds. The person was busy swinging an object down where Rudi was laying." 

He testified that he called for help and his father entered the room, switching on the light. "He was hit in the head, he was hit several more times. I distinctly remember a laugh." 

He said he heard his mother asking what was going on. Botha asked why, after witnessing an attack on his brother and his father, he did not go to his mother's aid.

"I was just scared. I can't recall what was going through my mind. I certainly wasn't thinking clearly. I was very scared." 

He meticulously detailed how the attacker returned to the room "and slowly walked towards me". 

"He laughed again. I could see he had a mask with holes cut out for eyes. He seemed rather unconcerned about me."

Van Breda said he struggled with the attacker and was able to push him away. The attacker then left the room. "Rudi was moving around rather violently, I saw his arms and legs shaking around. It wasn't a motivated movement or goal-oriented movement. He was shaking and flailing."

When asked why he didn't call for help, he said there was no particular reason why he didn't, "but in hindsight, it is something I should have done." 

He also described in detail how he sustained wounds on his body, painstakingly describing where his hands and his attacker's hands were during their struggle. During the trial, the State led evidence that those wounds were self-inflicted.

Van Breda further testified about chasing the attacker, throwing the axe after him, falling down the stairs and blacking out after trying to get hold of his girlfriend and googling emergency numbers. 

He said the last thing he recalled before losing consciousness was seeing his mother and sister Marli lying on the landing. 

He testified that when he regained consciousness it was light and he could hear the phone ringing and the dog barking. "I came to on the stairs and slowly started remembering. As if remembering a dream, I could see Marli moving around a bit, her one leg. That is when I snapped back into consciousness. I could again hear the sound I presume was Rudi from the room, the gurgling sounds."