Pistorius retches in court as pictures of Steenkamp shown

Defence scrutinises police handling of toilet door athlete smashed to get to shot girlfriend


Oscar Pistorius retched and covered his eyes in court when flashes of pictures were shown of his late girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp’s body today as his lawyer tackled police testimony that contradicts his version of events about the morning he shot her.

Mr Pistorius’s defence team has been scrutinising the police’s handling of a toilet door that he bashed through to get to the body of Ms Steenkamp, after an investigator contradicted the athlete’s version of events.

The Paralympian gold medallist wasn’t wearing his prosthetic legs when he broke through the locked door with a cricket bat, Johannes Vermeulen, a police colonel, testified yesterday at his murder trial in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital.

Mr Pistorius’s lawyer Barry Roux resumed cross-examining Mr Vermeulen today about how the evidence was stored and whether he was the best qualified person to examine the door.

A double-amputee, Mr Pistorius (27), has pleaded not guilty to the charge of intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. He says he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a toilet cubicle door in his bathroom.

Mr Pistorius says he used the bat to break down the door after realising it was his girlfriend who he had shot three times.

According to his bail application statement, Mr 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,” Mr Vermeulen said yesterday.

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.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux said another mark on the door was made by a prosthesis and this showed Mr Pistorius tried to kick it open. “I can tell you now it’s very easy for the accused to kick that high,” Mr Roux said today, adding he will show this to the court later.

He said pieces from the door that police say they cannot find are visible in a photograph the prosecution showed in court. The prosecution recreated the toilet in the court yesterday, using the same broken door, and the investigator detailed the marks made by the bat.

During an earlier recess, Mr Pistorius and his defence team tested whether the damage could be made with him standing upright.

Blade Runner

Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Mr Pistorius has been free on bail of 1 million rand (€66,000) bail since February last year.

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.

Since the start of the trial on March 3rd, Mr Roux has challenged testimony of neighbours about the timing of screams and gunshots, and sought to discredit a witness who argued Mr Pistorius was reckless with guns. The athlete has also been charged with firing a gun from a car and in a restaurant.

According to Mr Roux, Mr Pistorius screamed after he realised he had shot Ms 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 Mr Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp at 3.17am after an argument, during which she screamed for help.

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.

He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.