Africa

Pistorius trial: Doubts raised over ballistics evidence

  • 9 May 2014
  • From the section Africa

A ballistics expert at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has questioned the state's version of how he shot his girlfriend.

Defence witness Tom Wolmarans says wounds show Reeva Steenkamp may have been standing when first shot.

The double-amputee Paralympian denies intentionally shooting Ms Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

The prosecution alleges he shot her dead after a row and that she was cowering from him in the toilet.

He says he accidentally shot her through the toilet door in a state of panic, mistaking the 29-year-old model and law graduate for an intruder.

'Home sold'

Mr Wolmarans, a former police officer, says all four shots hit Ms Steenkamp.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June Steenkamp (right), has attended most of the trial
Oscar Pistorius' sister Aimee has also been following the trial
Tom Wolmarans said he disputed the state's reconstruction of how the bullets were fired

The state alleges one missed and ricocheted off a wall and injured her back and that the final bullet hit her hand and head as she was sitting in a defensive position.

But Mr Wolmarans said splinter evidence showed the model was leaning forward towards the door when the first bullet hit her hip.

The next bullet hit her arm, the third bullet her hand and the last bullet hit her head as she was falling backwards, he said.

On Thursday the court heard evidence about when Ms Steenkamp may have eaten her last meal.

Prof Christina Lundgren, an anaesthetist, described when a stomach is likely to be emptied after eating.

The couple had been dating for just a few months when she was shot dead in 2013

She said the prosecution's argument that Ms Steenkamp's stomach would have been empty if she had eaten when Mr Pistorius said she had done was "pure speculation".

Social worker Yvette van Schalkwyk, who also gave evidence on Thursday, said Mr Pistorius was "heartbroken" after the killing.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Mr Pistorius, 27, has sold his home in the Silverwoods Estate where Ms Steenkamp died.

He put the house on the market at the end of March in order to fund his legal costs, one of his lawyers said at the time.

An estate agent confirmed to South Africa's Beeld newspaper that a sale was under way.

The trial started at the beginning of March and was expected to last five weeks. The defence has said that it hopes to wrap up its case by 16 May.

If found guilty, Mr Pistorius - a national sporting hero dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race - could face life imprisonment.

If he is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

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

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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