Pistorius Trial Sees Prosecution Face Credibility TestPaul Burkhardt
Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius ordered a Smith & Wesson 500 revolver, a semi-automatic rifle and four other guns, a firearms trainer told his murder trial, as the prosecution tried to portray the athlete as obsessed with weapons.
“Over a number of months he bought a number of other firearms” after ordering a Smith & Wesson 500, Sean Rens told the High Court today in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. “He had a great love and enthusiasm for them.”
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. He answered “no” to queries about whether he was entitled to fire on someone who simply broke into his house, Rens said.
The Paralympian gold medalist has pleaded not guilty to the charge of intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day last year. Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, says he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a toilet cubicle door in his bathroom. The prosecution says he shot Steenkamp after an argument.
Pistorius’s acquisition of the guns was canceled about a month after he had shot Steenkamp, Rens said. Pistorius had also ordered a Mossberg shotgun with a pistol grip and a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, he said. Smith & Wesson describes the S&W500 as the most powerful handgun in the world, according to the company’s website.
Steenkamp, a model and TV presenter, was shot in the arm, hip and head through a locked wooden door with a 9mm handgun and hollow-tip bullets.
Pistorius told Rens about an incident in which he had gone into “combat mode” on what he thought was an intruder in his home that turned out to be a dryer.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel may call more than 100 witnesses including forensic and ballistic experts to testify in the case that started on March 3 and will probably run until at least April 4. Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius, who also faces three gun charges, has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail.
Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment after the trial, which is being broadcast live on radio and TV, because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
Nel took Barend van Staden, a police photographer, carefully through his crime-scene pictures, after Defense lawyer Barry Roux sought to discredit previous police witnesses for errors in their investigation.
Roux last week cross examined former police investigator Schoombie van Rensburg, who said that a colleague handled a gun without gloves, and that the police officers and their bags were searched after a watch disappeared. His faith in the integrity of the crime scene was so shaken that he moved the bathroom cubicle door through which Steenkamp was shot to his office.
“We already had the experience of the missing watch, so we decided to take the door,” he told the court.
Steenkamp’s mother June returned to the court for the first time since the first week of the case. She left the wood-paneled room as bloody photos of the crime scene were shown on screens.
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, Sveinn Solvason, Ossur’s chief financial officer, said by phone yesterday.
Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.