Van Breda case: expert says 128 out of 151 DNA samples 'technically invalid'

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Henri Van Breda's defence believes there is a chance his case will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal due to the complexity of the evidence in his case.

CAPE TOWN – The first defence witness in the trial of axe murder accused Henri van Breda took the stand for a second day on Tuesday in the Western Cape High Court, where she testified that most of the DNA samples analysed by the South African Police Service (SAPS) forensic laboratory were “technically invalid”.

DNA expert Dr Antonel Olckers told the Western Cape High Court that she received analysis of 151 DNA samples out of 216 taken from the crime scene. She found that of the 151, a total of 128 were invalid. She said just 23 samples could be considered valid.

Olckers said standard operating procedures had not been followed and a breakdown in three processes in particular invalidated the analysis.

Earlier in the trial, state witness and chief forensic analyst Lieutenant Colonel Sharlene Otto testified that “no unknown DNA” had been found at the van Breda family home in the luxury security estate, de Zalze in Stellenbosch.

READ: DNA found under Van Breda's nails: forensic analyst

22-year-old Henri van Breda is on trial for the axe murders of his mother, Teresa, father, Martin and brother Rudi in January 2015. He also faces a charge of attempted murder after his sister Marli, who was 16-years-old at the time, survived the gruesome attack.

She suffered severe brain injuries, has retrograde amnesia and is unable to recall the events of that night and therefore unable to testify.

Van Breda has claimed that an intruder, armed with an axe and knife, wearing dark clothing, a balaclava and gloves, was behind the murders.

In his plea explanation he said he also recalled “hearing what sounded like angry voices of more than one person, somewhere else in the house. Although I could not distinguish specific words, it sounded like the persons were speaking Afrikaans”.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

On Monday, Olckers told the court that samples from the same case shouldn’t follow each other on a laboratory work list, yet this had happened with 116 samples in this case, raising the chance of cross-contamination.

Furthermore, she said there were 32 DNA samples where the expiration date of Hemastix, used in presumptive testing for blood, was not indicated. She testified that it cannot be used once expired.

The case has been postponed until Monday to give the State time to prepare for their cross-examination of Olckers.