South African gets life in prison for ax murders of family

Henri van Breda was sentenced to three life sentences for the grisly killings of his parents and brother in 2015. (AP)
Updated 07 June 2018
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South African gets life in prison for ax murders of family

JOHANNESBURG: A 23-year-old South African man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for the 2015 ax murders of his parents and brother in an affluent housing estate.
Henri van Breda appeared impassive as a judge sentenced him to three life sentences for the grisly killings of parents Martin and Teresa and brother Rudi in Stellenbosch, a scenic town in a wine-growing area near Cape Town.
Van Breda also received a 15-year sentence in the Western Cape High Court for the attempted murder of his sister Marli at the time of the attacks. She suffered severe head injuries in a bloody onslaught that Judge Siraj Desai described as “cold-blooded” murder.
“These attacks display a high level of innate cruelty,” Desai said. “The violence was excessive and gratuitous. It was intended to cause maximum harm.”
Defense lawyer Pieter Botha, who plans to appeal the conviction and sentencing, had suggested van Breda’s youth and status as a first-time offender should be mitigating factors in the sentencing. He also said his client could not show remorse because he maintains he is innocent.
While Desai recalled that a witness heard a loud argument in the van Breda home for several hours on the night of the killings, he told Henri van Breda that “we have no explanation for what you did” and that he had to be handed the “severest possible penalty.”
Van Breda also received a one-year sentence for obstructing justice after the court concluded that he inflicted injuries on himself to try to mislead police.
The van Breda family lived in Australia for some years before returning to South Africa, and the judge said Henri van Breda had enrolled at the University of Melbourne.
“Your future was not bleak. In fact, it was bright,” Desai told van Breda as he stood in the dock. “You had the support of family and, more importantly, they had the means to assist you in your future endeavors, and it seems to me they would have done so.”


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 32 min 16 sec ago
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.