Local News

Former Perth student found guilty of brutally murdering his family with an axe

Henri remained emotionless as the guilty verdict was delivered.

By Holly Royce
Henri Van Breda, a former Perth student, has been found guilty of triple axe murder, the attempted murder of his sister and obstructing justice.
The 23-year-old South African was declared guilty of murdering three of his family members and leaving his sister for dead back in 2015 in what would later become known as the Van Breda murders. Henri's father and mother were found hacked to death in an upstairs bedroom of his family's luxury home, his brother and severely injured sister were found in a nearby doorway.
Henri called emergency services to report the crime, and the first respondents have told the courts that the scene was so brutal that blood flowed down the staircase.
Henri remained emotionless as the guilty verdict was delivered.
Henri pled not guilty to all charges, despite turning himself into police in 2016. He testified his family was attacked by an intruder that morning. He told emergency services that he had blacked out after attempting to fight off an attacker. The black out was later attributed to a medically confirmed diagnosis of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
The family lived in an extravagant home, which was called the De Zalze Estate. The estate has high levels of security and investigators could find no evidence of a break in.
The murder weapon was found to be an axe, which a cleaner attested was always kept in the family's pantry.
There were many inconsistencies found with Henri's testimony and demeanour following the attacks on his family, which eventually led to the guilty verdict.
While Henri's sister survived the incident, she did not participate in the trial due to "retrograde amnesia."
Her blood was the only one not found to be on the murder weapon.
The Van Breda family in happier times.
The Van Breda family lived in Australia and Henri attended school in Perth. They moved back to South Africa several years ago.
The family's net worth was an estimated $16 million.
Judge Desai delivered the verdict, and told the court, "It is nonsensical that an intruder with the intention to steal would go upstairs and start attacking the family."
"If the accused's intention was to be helped as soon as possible, it does not explain why he first called his girlfriend, a minor schoolgirl residing in a hostel, several times from his mobile phone," he continued.
"The court is in agreement that it is highly unlikely that the security was breached by an intruder from outside the estate."