Spellbound by trial and errors
The state, however, maintains it has forensic evidence and witnesses to prove otherwise. One witness statement introduced in court said an unnamed neighbour had heard continuous arguing coming from Pistorius’s house before the incident occurred. This was followed by gunfire, more screams and then more gunfire.
Gerrie Nel, the prosecutor, said Pistorius knew exactly who was in the bathroom and, as such, his actions were those of a cold-blooded killer. “He prepared. He armed himself. The motive was, he wanted to kill. He fired four shots. Three hit Steenkamp. It is those cold facts that make this a premeditated murder,” Nel alleged.
On Tuesday South Africa’s Cape Times published a story in which it claimed that Pistorius has in the past month applied for six gun licences, for weapons ranging from pump-action shotguns to a Smith Wesson revolver. His brushes with the law, and his alleged history of anger and jealousy towards love rivals, have begun to shape public opinion.
But as the week wore on it appeared that Pistorius’s defence team was gaining the upper hand over the state in the battle to convince Desmond Nair, the magistrate hearing their arguments, about the veracity of their respective claims.
During cross-examination on Wednesday, the chief investigating officer in the case, Hilton Botha, conceded he might have contaminated the crime scene by entering it without protective clothing.
Pistorius’s lawyer also forced Botha to amend his testimony in relation to the proximity of the witness who heard screaming and gunshots coming from Pistorius’s house. “The poor quality of evidence presented by the chief investigating officer exposed disastrous shortcomings in the state’s case,” Roux said.
Then on a Thursday morning a bombshell was dropped into the courtroom with the news that Botha was facing seven attempted-murder charges relating to a shooting in 2011.
By that evening South Africa’s police commissioner, Gen Riah Phiyega, had replaced Botha with Lt Gen Vinesh Moonoo, who would take over for the remainder of the investigation. Phiyega assured a stunned public that Moonoo was the police’s “top detective” and that he was facing no criminal charges. The Pistorius case “shall receive attention at the national level” and Moonoo will “gather a team of highly skilled and experienced detectives”, the commissioner said.
The bail hearing also sparked debate about ongoing cultural issues in South Africa. Domestic violence against women, widespread private gun ownership and high levels of crime are all central themes.
Greg Espey says the case has crystallised these problems for South Africans. “What happened has thrown up all sorts of questions around whether it is okay to use a gun to protect yourself in your own home, or how far the scourge of domestic violence reaches in South Africa.
“We all know it, but times like this really drive home the fact that we have a serious problem when it comes to domestic violence and crime. It makes us sad as a nation that we have to contend with these social illnesses.”