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Ilse de Lange
3 minute read
13 Mar 2014
6:00 am

Oscar’s bathroom door ‘tampered with’

Ilse de Lange

A police forensic analyst yesterday admitted that he had not examined the bathroom door through which Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp for marks possibly made by his artificial legs.

Police forensic expert Colonel Johannes Vermeulen holds a cricket bat while standing next to the door of murder accused Oscar Pistorius' toilet during cross-examination at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday, 12 March 2014. Pistorius, a double amputee, has said he used the bat to break down a locked toilet door through which he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year.He is on trial for premeditated murder. Pistorius has denied guilt, saying he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/Pool

Pistorius’s toilet door, inserted into a frame with a life-sized reconstruction of the toilet cubicle containing an actual toilet, formed the centre of yesterday’s proceedings in the Paralympian’s murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Colonel Johannes Vermeulen testified that he had only been asked to see if a cricket bat could have made the marks on the door and did not test if Pistorius’s artificial legs could have made any of the marks.

Shortly after proceedings started cricketer Herschelle Gibbs tweeted: “Just saw my signature on the bat used by the accused in oscar trial … lol ?#neveradullmoment.”

Col Vermeulen said marks on the cricket bat Pistorius had used to break down the door matched marks on the door. He was of the opinion that Pistorius was on his stumps when he fired shots through the door and broke it open with a cricket bat.

He insisted that the door had been intact when the shots were fired and that the cricket bat had only been used afterwards.

Col Vermeulen conceded that Pistorius could have been standing when he hit the door, but said it would have been in a very uncomfortable, unnatural position.

Col Vermeulen said he was not aware until recently of Pistorius’s version that he was on his stumps when he fired the shots which killed Steenkamp, but had his legs on when he first tried to kick down the door before using a cricket bat to break it open.

Pistorius’s advocate Barry Roux put it to Col Vermeulen that fabric from the sock was actually still embedded in the door.

Roux had Vermeulen bobbing between his knees and his feet and between the reconstructed door and the witness box several times to demonstrate how the marks on the door could have been made.

Col Vermeulen said he was sure that Pistorius would have been able to use the cricket bat on his stumps if he was able to fire the shots while on his stumps.

He insisted that Pistorius could also have made the marks on the door with his artificial legs while stumbling over it trying to get Steenkamp out of the bathroom. Roux dared Vermeulen to “stumble over a plank 100 times” to see if he could make such a mark.

Col Vermeulen admitted he had missed some of the door’s splinters on the floor when he examined it at the laboratory in April. He also admitted that photos showed what looked like police shoe-tread marks on the door.

He conceded that the cricket bat and door were not in the same state as on February 14 last year, as both had been handled by several people. He could not say who was in control of the door or if it had been stored in an office or in a safe.

The door was not in its frame when he first went to the crime scene on March 8 last year and it arrived in a body bag. He had helped rehang it at the scene and re-attached the loose panels with Prestik, but missed some of the splinters present at the scene.

He also admitted that new marks had appeared on the door since March 8.