Pistorius on his stumps when he opened fire, says expert

Captain Christian Mangena said Pistorius was most likely not wearing his prosthetic legs when he shot Reeva Steenkamp

A key police ballistics expert has said Oscar Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he shot his girlfriend, as the athlete's trial continued in South Africa.

Correspondents say this lends support to the defence team's insistence that the shooting was not premeditated.

Mr Pistorius denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day 2013, saying he thought she was an intruder.

The prosecution says he intentionally shot her after an argument.

On day 13 of the trial, Captain Christian Mangena said analysis of the crime scene and his subsequent tests suggested that Mr Pistorius, 27, was not wearing the prostheses when he fired the fatal shots.

Capt Mangena also said that while he had not been able to determine the exact distance, the evidence pointed to the shots having been fired from a position greater than 60cm (23 inches) away from the toilet door but no further than 3m.

Correspondents say this is in line with the athlete's testimony that he pulled the trigger while standing at the entrance to the bathroom.

Oscar Pistorius sits with his fingers in his ears in the Pretoria courtroom Oscar Pistorius sat with his fingers in his ears as details of Reeva Steenkamp's injuries were read out

Explaining the trajectory of the bullets, Capt Mangena said that Ms Steenkamp, 29, was standing up in the toilet cubicle when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four bullets.

Analysis

It was a high energy day in court as the state's ballistics expert gave his findings. Christian Mangena, with 20 years of experience in the South African Police Service, stood his ground while being cross-examined by defence lawyer Barry Roux.

Capt Mangena came across as professional and prepared and may have restored some respect to the police service after a few blunders in the investigation. Mr Roux is known for his gruelling style of questioning, but Capt Mangena showed no doubt in his version of events, insisting: "That is my version. I will not change my version."

It's no secret here that the police have limited resources compared to Mr Pistorius' highly paid team of experts. Proceedings have begun to resemble a childish game of "my experts are better than yours". But who will the court believe?

He said she then fell backwards before being hit in the arm and the head by the last two bullets fired by Mr Pistorius through the wooden door as she crossed both hands over her head to protect herself.

'She dropped immediately'

Contradicting the athlete's testimony that the shots had been fired in close succession, Capt Mangena said there had been a short break between the first and second shots and that the second bullet missed Ms Steenkamp.

Correspondents say this corroborates evidence given by a neighbour who said she heard a shot, then a pause, then three further shots. It also suggests that Ms Steenkamp may have had time to scream before she fell to the floor, supporting the neighbour's testimony that she had heard a woman screaming.

"I'm of the opinion that after [the first] wound was inflicted... she dropped immediately," Capt Mangena said. She then slumped into a "seated or semi-seated position" on top of a magazine rack, according to the police officer.

After the third and fourth shots she "ended up with her head on top of the toilet seat, and the lower part of her body on the rack", Capt Mangena added.

But defence lawyer Barry Roux contested Capt Mangena's evidence on the timing, maintaining that the bullets could have been fired in quick succession using a "double tap" technique - where the trigger is pulled in quick succession.

Capt Mangena insisted this was "impossible", saying that if this had been the case then Ms Steenkamp's wounds would have been in the same area of her body.

Oscar Pistorius with his sister Aimee on day 13 in the Pretoria courtroom Oscar Pistorius was comforted by his sister Aimee as the trial was adjourned on day 13

The court also heard from Col Mike Sales, an officer in the police technological investigations department, who analysed data from Mr Pistorius' smartphones and tablets.

Col Sales said several websites had been browsed on the athlete's iPad on the evening of the shooting, although he could not confirm who had been using the iPad.

The internet history featured searches for used cars, including an Aston Martin and a Ford Ranger, and a free pornography website.

The court was adjourned until Monday after the prosecution said it would only call on five more witnesses.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and the fate of Mr Pistorius will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

If found guilty, the 27-year-old - a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race - could face life imprisonment.

INTERACTIVE
  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting

    ×

    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls

    ×

    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

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