3 minute read
13 Mar 2014
5:33 pm

Oscar trial hears more testimony on door

The State and defence in the Oscar Pistorius trial sparred on Thursday over the sequence of his actions on the night he shot his girlfriend, as a door bearing bullet marks remained on display in court.

FILE PICTURE: State prosecutor Gerrie Nel (L) questions forensic expert Colonel Johannes Vermeulen during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, Thursday, 13 March 2014. The Paralympian pleaded not guilty to murder, although he admits killing Reeva Steenkamp by shooting her through a locked bathroom door. He mistook her for a burglar in his house, saying he made a tragic but understandable mistake. The murder trial has been compared to that of the OJ Simpson case in the United States 20 years ago. Picture: Alet Pretorius/Media24/Poo

The court was also shown photographs of a blood trail leading from Pistorius’s bathroom down the staircase in his house, prompting the disabled Olympic athlete to squirm in the dock.

In one of the pictures, an unsecured silver handgun could be seen lying on a grey towel, with a cellphone partially visible from underneath it and a blood smear beside it.

State witness, retired policeman Giliam van Rensburg, said this was the position in which he found Pistorius’s firearm after he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

“The safety clip had been removed. That firearm as it is lying there, it is ready to fire,” said Van Rensburg, who was the first policeman to arrive at the scene of the shooting.

Van Rensburg, who commanded the Boschkop police station in Pretoria at the time, said when he walked into the house he saw a body covered in blood stained towels and clothes and found Pistorius in the kitchen.

He was emotional and did not immediately reply when asked what had happened.

“I asked him what happened and he did not answer,” Van Rensburg said.

At this Pistorius’s defence lawyer Barry Roux SC stood up to contradict the witness: “My Lady, actually he was very emotional, not emotional.”

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder, claiming that he believed there was an intruder hiding in a locked toilet cubicle in his home when he fired four shots into it, fatally wounding Steenkamp.

According to his version of events, he then put on his prostheses, grabbed a cricket bat and broke open the toilet door.

This account was at issue for most of Thursday’s proceedings as senior police forensic expert Johannes Vermeulen was grilled about the conclusions he had made from studying the marks on the meranti door.

Vermeulen maintained under cross-examination from Roux that — based on the height and shape of the marks — Pistorius was in fact standing on his stumps when he swung the bat at the door.

Making a case that the police investigation had been unprofessional, Roux repeatedly asked why Vermeulen had failed to probe into the provenance of a footprint on a panel of the meranti door.

The lawyer argued that it provided proof that Pistorius had been wearing his prostheses and had tried to kick down the door, adding that an independent expert had found bits of fabric attached to the wood.

Roux then proceeded to show the High Court in Pretoria a picture of his client’s bloodied prosthetic legs to back up his argument.

The right leg had blood streaks on it, and one of the grey ankle socks had a dark stain near the toes.

Vermeulen conceded that only part of the prosthesis — the shin — had been examined by him, saying he had received Pistorius’s prosthetic legs without the socks, and his brief had been limited.

“I was not requested to do analysis on the prosthetic foot, except for that mark that was on the shin,” said Vermeulen.

Roux wryly commented: “It would have been fantastic as a qualified foot print examiner seeing that mark… to just do the test.”

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel returned to the subject when he re-examined Vermeulen, asking him whether the accused may have kicked the door for another reason than to gain access to the toilet cubicle, for example to intimidate the person was inside.

Vermeulen said this would be speculation.

“Let’s speculate,” Nel responded, to which the witness responded that the State’s scenario was possible.

Nel also asked Vermeulen whether he could definitively say that the dents in the door were all made only after the bullet holes.

He could not, Vermeulen answered.

The questions were in line with the State’s submission that Pistorius and Steenkamp had argued on the night he shot her, something the accused has denied in his sworn statement to the court as “unfair and incorrect”.

The trial, which is being televised live, was scheduled to continue until March 20 but an assistant prosecutor indicated on Thursday that it was now likely carry on at least until April 4.