March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius fired the first shot that hit his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp while she was standing and facing the bathroom cubicle door, a ballistics expert told his murder trial.
“She was standing in front of the door, facing the door,” police ballistics official Chris Mangena said today in testimony at the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Pistorius would have been at least two feet away when he fired, he said.
Steenkamp was standing when the first hollow-point bullet broke her hip bone, then she fell on top of a magazine rack in the toilet, Mangena said. She was struck by two more bullets from Pistorius’s pistol, in the arm and the head, he said. As Mangena testified, Pistorius jammed his thumbs into his ears and Steenkamp’s mother, June, was later comforted by friends as pictures of the scene were shown on screens in the court.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, and three separate gun-related charges. He says he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a toilet cubicle door in his bathroom. The prosecution says he killed Steenkamp after an argument.
Mangena said that since the first bullet caused Steenkamp to fall from a standing position, it was probable that there was a delay after the initial shot before the final three were fired, two of which hit her. The position of her arms showed Steenkamp may have been trying to shield herself after the first shot was fired, he said.
In the first week of the trial, Prosecutor Gerrie Nel called Pistorius’s neighbors and staff in the exclusive residential estate to testify about hearing arguments, a woman’s screams and rapid-fire gunshots. Defense lawyer Barry Roux argued the screams they heard were those of the athlete when he realized who he had shot.
The trial was postponed until March 24 after Nel asked for time to consult with witnesses. The adjournment was granted after the prosecutor said he planned to call at most another five witnesses.
The trial, which is being broadcast live on radio and TV, started on March 3 and will probably run until at least April 4, after which Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February last year.
Before the proceeding started, Pistorius and his sister, Aimee, wrote a letter that was given to June Steenkamp, Johannesburg-based SAPA news agency reported.
Michael Sales, a police information technology specialist, handed in as evidence information taken from two iPads found in Pistorius’s house, including one that showed Internet searches for cars and pornography.
The prosecution team has sought to portray Pistorius as obsessed with guns and reckless with the weapons. Witnesses testified how he shot through the sunroof of a car and in a Johannesburg restaurant.
The athlete ordered six firearms, including a Smith & Wesson 500 revolver and a semi-automatic rifle, Sean Rens, a firearms trainer, told the trial on March 17. The order was canceled about a month after he shot Steenkamp, Rens said.
Pistorius correctly answered questions in a mandatory test that he had a legal right to fire at possible intruders at his home only when he was directly threatened by a weapon, Rens said.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley.
Ossur hf, the Icelandic company that manufactures the blades used by Pistorius, said it may resume ties with the athlete if he’s acquitted of murder charges after announcing last week it had ended severed ties, according to Sveinn Solvason, Ossur’s chief financial officer.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.
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