Bloomberg News

Pistorius Without Prosthetics When Bashing Door, Court Told

March 12, 2014

Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs when he bashed in a toilet door with a cricket bat after shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a police witness testified at his murder trial.

Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, has pleaded not guilty in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, to charges of the premeditated murder for the death of Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The athlete says he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a toilet cubicle door in his bathroom. The testimony by Johannes Vermeulen, a police investigator, contradicts Pistorius’s statement at his bail hearing last year. The defense team questioned the police’s handling of the evidence.

Pistorius says he used the bat to break down the locked toilet door after realizing it was his girlfriend who he had shot three times. According to his bail application statement, Pistorius says he returned to his room, put on his prosthetics and first tried to kick the door in before using the bat.

“The marks on the door are consistent with him not having his legs on,” Vermeulen said in court today. Kneeling, he demonstrated that the marks on the door showed the blows with the Lazer cricket bat came from a lower angle than a person standing up.

The prosecution recreated the toilet in the court, using the same broken door and the investigator detailed the marks on the bat made by the force of the blows. During an earlier recess, Pistorius and his defense team tested if the damage to the door could be made with him standing upright.

Blade Runner

Defense lawyer Barry Roux said that another mark on the door was made by a prosthesis and this showed Pistorius tried to kick down the door. He also said that pieces from the door that police say they can’t find, are visible in a photograph the prosecution showed in court.

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. Judge Thokozile Masipa will give a final judgment after the scheduled three-week trial because South Africa doesn’t have a jury system. The trial will resume tomorrow.

Since the start of the trial on March 3, Roux has challenged testimony of neighbors about the timing of screams and gunshots, and sought to discredit a witness who argued Pistorius was reckless with guns. The athlete has also been charged with two separate counts of illegally firing a gun, and one of illegally owning ammunition.

‘Engineering Evidence’

According to Roux, Pistorius screamed after he realized he had shot Steenkamp through the toilet door, and that some of the gunshots they recalled were the noise of the accused breaking down the locked door with the cricket bat. The prosecution says Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp at 3:17 a.m. after an argument, during which she screamed for help.

Earlier today, Roux accused Darren Fresco, a friend of Pistorius, of “engineering evidence,” arguing that he lied in court and aligned his testimony with other witnesses.

Fresco wasn’t telling the truth when he told the court that Pistorius was driving a car at 260 kilometers (161 miles) per hour, Roux said. The time on a photo Fresco said he took of the speedometer proved that Fresco was driving the vehicle as he had testified yesterday that Pistorius was in the passenger seat and had fired a gun, the defense lawyer said.

Fresco referred to events only because previous witnesses had mentioned them, Roux said. Fresco admitted he read about details of the case on Twitter and heard evidence on TV and radio.

Live Broadcast

“It doesn’t matter what you do, where you go, it’s all over the news, it’s all over the radio,” Fresco said.

The trial is being broadcast live on radio and partially on TV.

Fresco backed up the testimony of the athlete’s former girlfriend Samantha Taylor that Pistorius laughed after firing a gun through the sunroof of a car in September 2012. He also corroborated testimony from Boxer Kevin Lerena last week that Pistorius discharged a Glock pistol in a Johannesburg restaurant in January last year.

The murder and gun charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE:US) and Luxottica Group SpA’s (LUX) Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net Gordon Bell, Karl Maier


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