In one of many revelations, veteran crime reporter Julian Jansen writes in “The De Zalze Murders: The Story Behind the Brutal Axe Attack”, that Henri’s alleged drug use caused discord in the family and troubled slain father Martin enough to confront and punish his son.
Quoting family friends, Jansen says Martin had high expectations of his children and was irked that his son was loafing around the house after dropping out of university in Australia, where he was allegedly nicknamed “Druggie” because of his clashes with authorities.
At some point Martin retaliated by cutting off his son’s allowance, claims Jansen, who relates how this was not well received by Henri, who already felt alienated by his dad’s favouritism for his eldest brother, Rudi, who was the first victim of the axe attack.
A close friend of Henri’s slain mother, Teresa, reveals in the book that Henri’s alleged drug use never came up in conversation, possibly because the family were ashamed of their dark secret.
But the friend claims she heard about it from her sons, who confided that their childhood friend, Rudi, had told them Henri used dagga and tik.
The same source also relates how she always saw Henri as a loner who didn’t easily make friends.
“Something about him has always been different,” she says. “For some or other reason my sons didn’t play with Henri. I couldn’t connect with him either. I have hundreds of photos of our children’s parties. They show all the children sitting around the table. But Henri sits apart on the ground. On his own.”
Jansen’s book, which went on sale this week, not only focuses on Van Breda’s 62-day trial, but on the family saga unfolding behind the scenes.
Relying mostly on input from Martin’s twin brothers, Bailey and Andre, he paints a picture of the family’s uneasiness with the way Henri conducts himself, and his spiralling legal costs. On a number of occasions in the book, the mounting tension between the Van Bredas and Teresa’s family, who firmly believe in Henri’s innocence, leads Bailey to explode in frustration that “the bastard” carries on with his life as if nothing happened.
Elsewhere in the book he controversially refers to Henri’s plea statement as a “fairy-tale” and complains of his advocate’s “exorbitant fees”.
Van Breda’s defence closed their case this week with neurologist Dr James Butler, who testified that Henri’s 2 hour, 40 minute unconscious spell following the murders and subsequent lack of urgency and concern could be ascribed to his recently diagnosed epilepsy.
Final arguments are set for February and judgment is expected in March.