But he escaped serious injury after being rescued by a fellow inmate who ripped a metal condom dispenser from the wall and used it as a weapon to deter Van Breda’s assailants.
However, the respite was short-lived when the attackers turned on Van Breda for a second time, chasing him and his rescuer back to the hospital section where they managed to slam a security door in their faces.
“Henri said it was a terrifying, horrible experience,” said Van Breda’s attorney, Lorinda van Niekerk, after visiting her client yesterday. “But he is coping well after being counselled by nursing staff.”
Van Breda was accosted on a stairwell while walking back to his cell following a visit by his uncle, Andre du Toit, and his girlfriend, Danielle Janse van Rensberg.
He was unescorted at the time and carrying a bag of food that he had received during his visit.
“Henri said his attackers knew who he was and he got the impression they were targeting him,” said advocate Pieter Botha, who accompanied Van Niekerk to Pollsmoor yesterday.
“They wanted to search his bag and when he resisted they started pushing him against the wall,” said Botha. “One inmate grabbed him by the throat and another stomped on his foot. A struggle ensued. Then one of his fellow hospital section inmates came into to the stairwell, saw what was happening and ripped a metal condom dispenser off the wall and chased Henri’s attackers.
“After the thwarted attack, Henri and his rescuer ran back to the hospital section with the five attackers in hot pursuit. They ran through a metal door and Van Breda’s rescuer managed to hold it shut while Henri ran to get assistance. At first he could only find two female administrative workers who alerted warders who arrived on the scene a few minutes later.
“Henri escaped with a few scratches and bruises on his body and an injured foot. He was treated that day by a nurse and seen by a Pollsmoor doctor the next day who confirmed that Henri’s foot was not broken. Henri was never transferred to any hospital.”
Botha confirmed his client was “very shaken up” by the surprise attack. “But he is now in reasonably good spirits. I didn’t get the impression that he was in fear of his life. But if he were moved to the general population section he would fear for his life. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will then be targeted.”
Botha said: “(Van Breda was) completely taken aback when told that newspapers were reporting that he had attempted suicide. That was the first he had heard of it. Apparently that tip came from an inmate who called a reporter during the week.”
Van Breda is “coping reasonably well” since being held in Pollsmoor following his May 21 conviction for murdering his mother, father and brother with the family braai axe and attempting to murder his sister at their Stellenbosch golf estate home in 2015.
“He feels safer now that he is accompanied by a prison warder whenever he leaves the hospital section. He is being visited regularly by his uncle and his girlfriend and they are keeping his spirits up.”
Van Breda told Botha that the attack was “a shocking ordeal” that came out of the blue.
“He’s convinced the outcome would have been far worse were it not for the assistance of his condom dispenser-wielding rescuer,” said Botha. “He told me his attackers were intent on harming him. Robbery was not their only motive. They knew exactly who he was.
“It’s worrying for me because this is what I expected. Because of his notoriety Henri is a target in prison. It remains a big concern.”
Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo described reports of Van Breda’s attempted suicide as “fake news”.
“A journalist fabricated that story from an anonymous call,” he said.
He also denied that Van Breda had been attacked. “He is in the hospital wing. Who is going to attack him there?”
Van Breda, 23, returns to the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday for sentencing. Judge Siraj Desai is expected to hand down multiple life sentences to Van Breda who he described as an “unimpressive” witness who displayed “a peculiar lack of empathy” after the horrific and brutal axe killings.