Henri Van Breda, 23, was also jailed for 15 years for the attempted murder of his sister.
In a case that horrified South Africa and the world, Henri van Breda took an axe to his father, Martin van Breda, 54, his mother Teresa van Breda, 55 and his brother Rudi van Breda, 22.
Count 1 is for the murder of Rudi van Breda (life sentence), Count 2 is for the murder of Martin van Breda (life sentence), Count 3 is for the murder of Teresa van Breda (life sentence), Count 4 is for the attempted murder of Marli van Breda (15 year sentence) and Count 5 is for obstructing the course of justice (12 months imprisonment). He will lose his $10 million inheritance from the family estate as he is not allowed under South African law to benefit financially from his crime.
He also attacked his sister Marli, then just 16, apparently leaving her for dead.
Henri van Breda sits in the dock in the High Court in Cape Town, South Africa, during sentencing.
"The victims were unarmed (and) they faced an axe-wielding son or brother, probably not expecting the worst", said Desai.
The sentences will run concurrently.
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Defence lawyer Pieter Botha, who plans to appeal the conviction and sentencing, had called for a "merciful" sentencing, arguing that van Breda was a first-time offender who was "barely 20" when he killed his family.
Danielle Janse van Rensburg (C), the girlfriend of convicted killer Henri van Breda (unseen) talks to members of the Van Breda family following the sentencing.
Marli, now 19, suffered severe head injuries and has no recollection of the attacks, described by Judge Siraj Desai as "cold-blooded" murder.
"There appear to be none", said Desai.
"Each murderous attack upon a family member constitutes a very serious crime, warranting the severest penalty possible". The violence was excessive and gratuitous, and it was meant to cause massive harm.
"You've displayed no remorse".
TimesLIVE reader David Zuckerberg reacted to Van Breda's sentencing by saying: "Zero remorse‚ angry‚ maintains his innocence and blames an imaginary black man for the murders".