Family axe killer Henri van Breda given three life sentences

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Van Breda, then just 20, used an axe to slaughter his father, Martin, 54, his mother, Teresa, 55, and older brother Rudi, 22, as they slept.

The 23-year-old 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.

Beukman said the prosecution was a testament to the "brilliant work" of various police units‚ especially the Stellenbosch detectives branch.

If his demeanour in court is any sort of litmus test for how an accused feels about the potential success of his trial, Van Breda's can only be described as a flatline with very occasional bumps.

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The grisly attack, which gripped a country that has a high rate of violent crime, also has attracted global attention.

Van Breda, who was wearing a blue shirt with a patterned tie and a light grey suit, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.

Van Breda has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2015 ax murders of his parents and brother and received a separate sentence of 15 years for the attempted murder of his sister.

In delivering sentence, Judge Sir Desai said Henri committed crimes of unbridled violence, while the victims were unarmed and defenceless. "They were attacks involving a high degree of uncontrolled violence. We have no explanation for what happened and you have displayed no remorse", said Judge Desai.

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"The SAPS hopes the sentence will also boost the morale of police officials who on a daily basis venture out in an effort to ensure communities are safe", Jula said.

The trial generated fevered 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.

"I'm searching for some human factor that to some degree diminishes the sheer seriousness of these crimes", said Judge Desai at a hearing on Tuesday. I'm appealing to [you]: "put before me some reason for these attacks", he said.

When the family lived in Perth, Henri and Rudi attended the prestigious Scotch College while Marli was a student at Presbyterian Ladies' College.

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