Martin, Theresa and Rudi van Breda were brutally axed to death in the Stellenbosch family home. Henri, who has been charged with their murders, and his youngest sister Marli were the only survivors.

Judge Siraj Desai gave Van Breda permission to sit as far back as possible so that he could avoid seeing photographs of the brutal injuries inflicted on his family in the early hours of the morning of January 27, 2015, at their luxury home in Stellenbosch.

Van Breda stands accused of bludgeoning to death his father Martin, mother Teresa and Rudi, as well as the attempted murder of his sister Marli, who was 16 at the time of the attack, but survived.

Forensic pathologist Dr Daphne Anthony on Thursday detailed the severe head injuries that caused their deaths.

She testified that Rudi van Breda, Henri’s older brother, had evidence of blood in his stomach and this indicated that he had not died immediately as he had swallowed blood.

There was also evidence of “external sharp and blunt force trauma on his hand”. The little finger on his left hand had defensive wounds and the nail was loose, indicating that he had tried to protect himself and ward off his attacker.

She could not say how long he was alive for after the attack, but believed he was alive “for a while” .

Judge Desai asked if Rudi would have felt pain, and Anthony said he would have and would have been semi-conscious.

She said he also had a “so-called chop wound”.

“This wound has features of sharp and blunt force trauma. It’s normally caused by a heavy or bulky object with a sharp edge and inflicted on the body. It’s wielded on the body with a tremendous amount of force and often at high speed.” 

Loose bone fragments could be seen with her naked eye, as well as underlying brain tissue, she testified.

Some of his wounds were located on the left side of his neck and temple and left and central upper part of his scalp.

“The brain showed evidence of deep laceration.” while he had “severe skull fractures, which caused damage to the brain itself”.

Anthony held the axe, believed to be the murder weapon, and said the attacker would have had to be strong to handle it.

Van Breda’s father, Martin, also died from severe head injuries. In his case, however, Anthony said he had no defensive wounds which indicated that his attacker surprised him.

There was blood in both of his lungs which indicated he, too, did not die immediately.

“He had chop wounds on the back of his head, also on the right and left at the back of the head. Infliction of the trauma was most likely from behind.”

Van Breda’s mother, Teresa also showed evidence of “sharp and blunt force trauma” involving the head.

Anthony said she had a defensive wound on her hand and must have attempted to protect herself from the attack. She also had small abrasions on the bridge of her nose, possibly from falling forward.

She, too, had chop wounds, extensive loss of blood, skull fractures and brain jury.

“Several loose skull fragments were present and could be seen with the naked eye. And brain tissue damage could also be seen with the naked eye.”

Anthony said she believed Teresa was facing her attacker. She had no evidence of blood in her lungs or stomach which indicated that she “died fairly quickly”.