Bianca van der Westhuizen flew to Australia to spend time with Henri van Breda while he was a student that year, and they went to the beach and ate ice-cream together.
When Van Breda sent her a message on the night his family was butchered in Stellenbosch, Van der Westhuizen assumed it was because he didn’t have anyone else to call.
“When I connected to my school’s wi-fi, I saw the emergency message he sent me. I sent him a message and tried to call, but I couldn’t get hold of him,” said Van der Westhuizen in her testimony in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Van der Westhuizen – the first person Van Breda called after his family was killed – was the eighth witness called in his murder trial, and detailed her version of events of that morning.
Van der Westhuizen, in matric at the time, said that at about 10pm on January 26, 2015, the night before the murders, she sent him a message and then switched her phone to flight mode.
Van Breda had called her at 4.24am the next morning, but she didn’t answer. He called her again at 7.20am, but she missed it as well.
When Van der Westhuizen arrived at school, she saw what seemed to be emergency messages from Van Breda, and she responded. But Van Breda never received her messages, Van der Westhuizen said, and he did not answer a follow-up phone call she made to him.
“I’m not sure why he called me, but I’m assuming it’s because he didn’t have anyone else to call,” Van der Westhuizen said. She then saw Van Breda at the police station later that day.
In Van Breda’s plea explanation, he said he wanted to call emergency services, but did not know the number, so he called Van der Westhuizen, but she didn’t answer. He then found an emergency number, but twice failed to get through.
He finally got through from the landline and tried to remain calm. He said he spoke calmly in case the operator did not understand his Australian accent.
Van Breda is standing trial for the murder of his mother Teresa, 55, father Martin, 54, and brother Rudi, 22, who were were attacked and killed with an axe. He also faces a charge for attempted murder for an attack on his sister, Marli, who survived and now suffers from retrograde amnesia.
Earlier in the day, Van Breda’s uncle, Cornelius van Breda, described the family as loving, and that there was no animosity. He testified that he visited the house where the murders took place twice, and on one occasion when he went to collect some of Marli’s belongings, Henri accompanied him.
Cornelius asked Henri what he would like from the house, and he said a Japanese whisky he bought for his father in Australia, along with his father’s aftershave his mother had bought him.
Also on the stand was the family’s domestic worker, Precious Munyongani, who testified that the axe used to killed the family members was kept on the pantry’s shelf.
The trial continues.