True crime Tuesday, South African Axe murderer. Henri Van Breda

Written by Wanda Hartzenberg and ChatGTP

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The Chilling Case of Henri van Breda: South Africa's Axe Murderer

Title: The Chilling Case of Henri van Breda: South Africa’s Axe Murderer 




True crime stories have a way of captivating our imaginations, perhaps because they offer a glimpse into the darkest corners of human nature. The case of Henri van Breda, the South African axe murderer, is one such story that shocked the world with its brutality and mystery. In this blog post, we will delve into the chilling details of the case, the trial that followed, and the questions that continue to linger in the minds of those who followed it closely. 


The Crime 


On the night of January 27, 2015, in the quiet and affluent De Zalze Golf Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a gruesome crime unfolded. The van Breda family home became the scene of a horrifying massacre that claimed the lives of three family members and left Marlie van Breda (16) seriously injured. The victims were Martin van Breda (54), his wife Teresa (55), and their eldest son, Rudi (22). Marli van Breda survived but sustained life-threatening injuries, including severe head trauma. 


The weapon of choice in this brutal attack was an axe, which added a horrifying dimension to the crime. The savagery of the assault shocked both the local community and the world at large. The lone survivor, Henri van Breda (20 at the time), claimed to have fought off the attacker, sustaining minor injuries himself. 


The Investigation 


As detectives began their investigation, they faced a complex and baffling crime scene. The lack of any signs of forced entry raised suspicions about whether an intruder was responsible. Henri’s behavior and inconsistent statements further fueled the investigators’ doubts. 


Over the course of the investigation, evidence began to mount against Henri. Notably, the absence of any defensive wounds on Henri’s body, despite the alleged struggle, raised red flags. Additionally, forensic analysis of the crime scene suggested that Henri’s version of events did not align with the physical evidence. 


The Trial 


Henri van Breda’s trial began in May 2017, and it quickly became a media sensation in South Africa and beyond. He faced multiple charges, including three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and one of obstructing justice. 


During the trial, the prosecution argued that Henri was the sole perpetrator of the axe attacks. They pointed to his inconsistent statements, the lack of an apparent motive for an intruder to commit such a heinous crime, and the forensic evidence that contradicted his version of events. The defense, on the other hand, maintained Henri’s innocence, claiming that he had indeed fought off an intruder. 


In June 2018, Henri van Breda was found guilty on all counts and subsequently sentenced to three life terms in prison for the murders, 15 years for the attempted murder, and one year for obstructing justice. 


Unanswered Questions 


Despite the verdict, the case continues to raise many unanswered questions. What could have motivated Henri to commit such a horrific act against his own family? Did he act alone, or was there an accomplice as he claimed? The lack of a clear motive and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the case leave room for speculation and debate. 




The case of Henri van Breda, South Africa’s axe murderer, remains a chilling and enigmatic chapter in the annals of true crime. The brutality of the crime, the courtroom drama, and the lingering questions about what truly transpired that fateful night have captured the fascination of many. It serves as a stark reminder that even in the most seemingly idyllic settings, the darkest of secrets can unravel, leaving behind a trail of horror and mystery.