CAPE TOWN - Senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway smiled broadly after three life sentences were imposed on 23-year-old axe murderer Henri van Breda.
Assisted by prosecutor Megan Blows, Galloway beamed as colleagues congratulated them for their excellent work on the case that has grabbed headlines for three years.
Van Breda was sentenced to three life terms on Thursday for the January 2015 murders of his parents, Martin and Teresa, and his older brother Rudi, at their family home at the security estate De Zalze in Stellenbosch.
He received 15 years for the attempted murder of his sister Marli, who was 16 years old at the time, and a further 12 months for defeating the ends of justice.
Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai did not mince his words, describing the attacks as "savage" and indicative of an "innate cruelty".
Despite his youth and the fact that he had no previous convictions, Desai said his crimes warranted the severest possible penalties.
"You have not told the court what precipitated these crimes. We know from an independent witness that there was a loud argument in the hours before. They were not committed in a vacuum and there was disgruntlement. This was graphically displayed in post mortem reports."
He said his victims had been unarmed and defenceless and had faced an axe-wielding brother or son who committed the attacks with "uncontrolled violence".
His father Martin van Breda had tried to defend his son Rudi, the first family member to be attacked. Desai said the father had tried to protect his son with his body and had no defensive wounds.
Rudi had sustained sharp and blunt force trauma to his head and the only indication of defensive wounds had been on his little finger.
Desai said Van Breda's mother Teresa had similar injuries.
"Marli was the victim of a similar attack, but in her case fortunately it was not fatal. The assailant, which was you with an axe, launched a savage and continuous attack upon your victims. You survived with inconsequential injuries. These attacks show a high level of innate cruelty and disregard for the welfare of your own family."
Desai said Van Breda had shown no remorse and that there were no substantial or compelling factors to deviate from minimum sentencing legislation.
Throughout the trial, Van Breda maintained his innocence, claiming an intruder was behind the attacks.
National prosecuting authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila welcomed the sentences, saying: "Its been a long three years, especially working with circumstantial evidence. Credit must go to the two teams, the police of Stellenbosch and the two advocates of the NPA.
"He (Van Breda) indicated several times that he was innocent, he didn't commit any of those crimes, it was a black man, an intruder. Unfortunately (for him), we didn't find that black man."
The defence will apply for leave to appeal both the conviction and sentence. That application has been set down for June 27.
Van Breda's girlfriend Danielle Janse Van Rensburg, whom he met after the murders, and has been dating for over two years, was present in court.
Before sentencing, Van Breda turned around several times to smile at her, but as Judge Desai handed down sentence he appeared unmoved, displaying no emotion.
African News Agency/ANA