Van Breda on 60 Minutes: Screengrabs of the Crime Scene

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I reached out to a few friends in Australia to ask them to watch the show. 60 Minutes also put some footage on their Facebook page [see links below].

This is the first time the South African public have had access to the crime scene footage. Personally I was surprised by how pink the blood appears in the footage. When I saw the previews, my photographer’s eye wondered whether this was a staged crime scene meant to resemble the real one, for drammatic purposes. But it’s the real thing.

When I sat in court Sergeant Apollis [who is interviewed by 60 Minutes] scrolled through the crime scene images on his laptop. I saw these images over his shoulder from about 2 metres away. From where I was sitting I was surprised by the lack of blood. Although the boy’s bedroom is very bloody, the staircase isn’t nearly as slick as I imagined it, and certainly doesn’t conjure the paramedic’s description of a “waterfall of blood” coming down the stairs.

The amount of contaminated boot-prints on the scene is also shocking, but it goes to show, if the cops left bloodied shoe-prints everywhere, why wouldn’t Henri leave any footprints, even if he was innocent?

The brown shoes at the bottom of the stairs had blood on them too. When Henri was asked to explain how the blood landed on his shoes, he said they may have dripped off the stairs. From the images this hardly seems possible.

The blood on the axe also looks very pink compared to some of crime scene images of the axe that have been released.

In terms of Danielle, Henri’s girlfriend, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear her punting the epilepsy narrative. In court one senses this was purposefully held back in order to give it a proper go round in an appeal. If that’s the best the defence case has going for it, they’re in deep trouble.

Danielle’s rebuff of the defensive wounds wasn’t very convincing either.

The aunt, Leenta Nel whose sister was murdered in the attack, has been an apologist for her nephew since day one. Nel basically says it all when she says “I can’t think”. She says “it’s too terrible to contemplate” and refers to there being “no motive in her mind”. That’s the problem though, isn’t it? It’s the failure to think about it, also because you won’t think about it. And since you won’t think, can’t think, you solve the problem by inventing an easy solution that makes even less sense. He’s not guilty. But if he’s not guilty, someone else is. What’s the explanation for that? There isn’t one, but who cares.

The “no motive” narrative was a weakness of the state’s case, and also a weakness of the media narrative. The Judge raised this as a key problem with the trial narrative. That’s why in my 5 part series, I focused entirely on this apparently unknown and supposedly inexplicable aspect. It’s hardly unknown or unknowable when one begins to dig into Henri’s identity, his personality, his backstory, and the family dynamics. It helps to think in order to understand. Of course, money can muddle the mind, especially when one’s “support” might be rewarded, where one’s failure to think critically can make you rich.

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The Media as a Co-Conspirator in the Van Breda case

Henri van Breda’s appeal was originally scheduled for late June 2018. It was then postponed to August 14th, 2018. Two weeks before that day, just long enough for the media message to soak in, Australia’s 60 minutes will do what they called a “world exclusive” on the story.

Australia’s Liz Hayes has, they say,  been given unprecedented access to the Henri van Breda murder files. That’s interesting because when I went to the registrar of the Western Cape High Court in person and with a fellow researcher, on more than one occasion including in late June, we were denied access. When I called, we were told the files were sealed until after the appeal. Only a few days ago, when I mentioned the status of the court files to another senior journalist covering the case, who has also written a book on the case, he’d experienced the same thing. The court files – unusually – still aren’t available for public consumption.

Which is why this is so weird:

60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes is given unprecedented access to the Henri van Breda murder files…

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Now I know the media were allowed a brief peek at the files while the court case was underway. No photos or video cameras were allowed. The media were allowed a few minutes to page through the file in court. So the suggestion that overseas media got “unprecedented” and privileged access to the court feels like grammatical license, or something worse.

60 minutes is clever in the way they suck the viewer into the premise. They pretend to be showing the gory crime scene in all its detail for the first time and then pretend they’re going to be asking why Henri committed the crimes.

I haven’t seen the documentary, but I wonder what footage they have? As part of my research for Indefensible, I contacted Warrant Officer Andrè Hitchcock, the police videographer who took the video inside the crime scene, and also discussed this footage with the prosecutor. I wasn’t allowed to see it until it was officially released by the court. This footage was shown in court last year in June, early on when the state pled their case and fielded their evidence. But it remains in the care and custody of the court.

More likely, in my opinion, they’ll use the little footage there is of the axe from police evidence, but the real story is this: not why Henri did it, but why he didn’t.

According to 9News.com.au:

On 60 Minutes, Hayes also speaks exclusively with van Breda’s girlfriend Danielle Janse van Rensburg, and his aunt Leenta Nell. They explain why they refuse to believe Henri is guilty.

All of this has been a carefully contrived and plotted dance between the media and the mass murderer – and his affilitates, in order to gain maximum traction just before the appeal trial. The idea is to sow seeds of sympathy with an international audience, and obviously, local media will cover the “revelations” as well.

Interestingly, neither Henri’s girlfriend nor his aunt testified at trial, not even in mitigation of sentence. So one has to wonder, why should the “exclusive” media narrative now be better, more convincing, or less biased than the evidence led in court?

It’s an influence campaign, aided and abetted by the media, to make the sentimental case that “the Henri I know would never do this…” Then who did? The Henri they didn’t know? The hardcore Henri that Henri’s hidden away?

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The 60 minutes exclusive on Sunday 29th July will nevertheless be interesting to watch to see how Henri’s closest family rationalise his crimes – if not to court, and perhaps not even to themselves, but to a media made to appear credible on the facts of the case.

The most reviewed and in-depth narrative on the Van Breda is available on Amazon.com.

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