A young South African man convicted of murdering his wealthy parents and brother and maiming his sister in a frenzied axe attack was handed three life sentences on Thursday.
Judge Siraj Desai described 23-year-old Henri Van Breda’s January 2015 rampage as “savage and vicious” with “an almost unprecedented degree of disregard for one’s family”.
“Each murderous attack on a family member is a severe crime and warrants the severest punishment,” Mr Desai told the packed Western Cape High Court in Cape Town after the headline-making trial.
Van Breda, who wore a light grey suit, blue shirt and patterned tie, was also jailed for 15 years for the attempted murder of his sister.
After a trial that had sought in vain to understand the motive for the bloodbath, Van Breda remained emotionless as the sentence was handed down.
He was then led away by court officers as his girlfriend watched from the public gallery.
He had denied murdering his 21-year-old brother Rudi and parents Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and leaving his sister Marli struggling with near-fatal injuries to her head, neck and throat after the bloody attack.
“They were attacks involving a high degree of uncontrolled violence. The victims were unarmed (and) they faced an axe-wielding son or brother, probably not expecting the worst,” said Mr Desai.
“We have heard no explanation… you have shown no remorse.”
The trial generated global interest in how a privileged son unleashed such a brutal attack on his family, whose fortune – estimated at $16 million (13.6 million euros) – was derived from property.
The family had moved to Australia many years ago before returning to South Africa in 2014.
Van Breda was convicted of three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of obstructing justice on May 21 with the judge describing the verdict as “inescapable”. He received a separate 12-month sentence on the obstruction count.
Defence lawyer Pieter Botha had called for a “merciful” sentencing, arguing that Van Breda was a first-time offender who was “barely 20” when he killed his family.
He said Van Breda had been in counselling for six months, was “appropriately emotional” when the murders were mentioned, and was taking medication for depression and epilepsy.
Since his conviction Van Breda has been held in the medical wing of South Africa’s notoriously violent Pollsmoor prison.