Pistorius Lawyer Casts Doubt on Police, Photograph EvidenceChristopher Spillane
Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius’s lawyer tried to show police contaminated the scene of his girlfriend’s death by moving evidence when photographs were taken.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Reeva 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.
A series of photographs showed a gun and a cricket bat, used to break down the toilet door after the shooting, and other objects in different positions, defense lawyer Barry Roux said during cross examination of Barend van Staden, the crime-scene photographer. There also seemed to be another photographer at the scene at the time pictures were taken, he said.
“You could not have missed him. You were in the same passage. Same time, same passage. Just accept it,” Roux said. “Together in the bathroom, in the bedroom, who took photos when you said you were alone.”
The start of the trial was delayed by more than an hour after Roux requested originals of all the photographs taken at the scene of the shooting. The athlete spoke with family members in the wood-paneled room in the Pretoria city center as Steenkamp’s mother, June, sat in the first row.
The trial adjourned for the day with the prosecution questioning Capt. Christian Mangena, a ballistics expert with 19 years’ experience.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel took Van Staden carefully through his pictures yesterday, after Roux sought to discredit previous police witnesses for errors in their investigation. The photos detail blood spatter on the toilet floor, and in the bedroom of Pistorius’s home.
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 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.
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 yesterday. 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.
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-point bullets.
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.