Cape Town - Henri van Breda faced a grilling in the witness box on Wednesday as the State sought to show that he "altered" his timeline of events on the night three of his family members were axed to death at their home at a security estate in Stellenbosch in January 2015.
Senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway said she believed he had changed his timeline in a bid to fit in with testimony from an earlier state witness.
During the trial, neighbour Stephanie Op't Hof told the Western Cape High Court that she heard loud male voices arguing between 10pm and midnight on the night of January 26.
But Henri claimed she must have heard the Star Trek 2 movie he was watching with his father, Martin and brother, Rudi.
According to his police statement, however, they watched the movie after dinner which would have been at around 8pm. On Wednesday, he told the court that his father had in fact worked on his laptop after dinner and that they had actually watched the movie much later, at around 10pm.
He blamed discrepancies between his police statement and plea explanation on Colonel Deon Beneke recording his answers inaccurately and on "mistranslations".
Judge Siraj Desai was quick to point out that the statement had been taken down in English and had in fact not been translated.
Galloway put it to Van Breda that his description of the intruder in his initial police statement had been "stereotypical" and "vague", describing a black man wearing a homemade balaclava and dark clothing.
Van Breda said it could have been a dark-skinned coloured man, but having spent most of his life in Australia, was not used to discerning the distinctions between the two. "The word coloured is not used in Australia. When I said black, perhaps it should have been coloured."
He said he had heard two harsh voices, but only seen one intruder in the bedroom he shared with his brother. "I heard a voice with a harsh tone, most likely speaking Afrikaans. They had similar voices, but two distinct intonations."
He told the court that the intruder had targetted Rudi specifically. He had come out of the bathroom and stood frozen in the corner, but had called for help. His father had rushed into the room, switched on the light and then been attacked himself. After attacking the father, the intruder had "giggled".
Van Breda conceded that the intruder had been unconcerned by his presence, and had not been distracted by his calls for help when attacking Rudi.
Further, when his mother came running towards the room and asked what was going on, the attacker moved towards her. Galloway put it to Van Breda that it was strange that the attacker had not turned on Van Breda himself, who he must have known was male from his deep voice and earlier calls for help. "He leaves you, a male behind him, to attack a female outside the room, despite being aware of you in the room, he does nothing."
Van Breda said the attacker giggled after attacking his father to which Judge Desai asked "like he was having fun, enjoying what he was doing?"
"It appeared so," Van Breda told the court.
Van Breda, who turned 23 on Wednesday, appeared nervous on the stand, particularly when detailing the movements of the intruder and the way he swung the axe during the attacks. At one point, Judge Desai offered him water.
Earlier, Van Breda demonstrated to the court how the intruder swung the axe down onto his sleeping brother Rudi. The State had brought in a replica wooden axe for Van Breda to show the court the swinging motions used during the attacks on his father and brother.
Van Breda faces three charges of murder for the axe killings of his mother, Teresa, father, Martin and brother Rudi. He faces a charge of attempted murder after his sister Marli, 16 at the time, survived the attack. He also faces a charge of defeating the ends of justice. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.