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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva Steenkamp 'crossed her arms above her head to protect herself' from bullets fired through locked toilet door

Tom Peck

Published 19/03/2014 | 20:27

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Oscar Pistorius blocks his ears during court proceedings yesterday
Oscar Pistorius blocks his ears during court proceedings today
Oscar Pistorius is charged with murder over the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Oscar Pistorius is charged with murder over the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day in 2013. Photo: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

Reeva Steenkamp had her arms crossed above her head as she tried to protect herself from bullets fired by Oscar Pistorius through a locked door, his murder trial heard.

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Police ballistic expert Captain Christiaan Mangena told Pretoria's High Court the model and law graduate was standing in a toilet cubicle when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four bullets.

She then fell back and was struck in the right arm and the head as she tried to cross arms to protect herself from the bullets.

She was facing the door when boyfriend Pistorius opened fire.

“That bullet penetrated and broke the hip bone of the deceased. If the hip bone is broken completely, it causes her to fall down, she would not have been able to stand. She fell down and moved backwards,” he told the court

Captain Mangena said the bullet that struck her head broke into two fragments, causing extensive damage.

He said the second shot missed Ms Steenkamp, hitting the cubicle instead and causing it to break into pieces, bruising her back.

He said he could not determine the order of the last two shots.

Captain Mangena said that Ms Steenkamp then fell on top of a magazine rack in the bathroom, in a seated position, from where one subsequent bullet missed her, before a fourth hit her in the head, and killed her.

In highly aggressive exchanges, Pistorius’s defence counsel Barry Roux repeatedly suggested wounds on Ms Steenkamp’s back came from the magazine rack, not from secondary bullet fragments, and that their own expert analysis will show that.

Captain Mangena, a respected ballistics expert with 20 years experience, stated more than ten times, that “I disagree.”

“But you didn’t test it, did you?” Mr Roux asked him.

“No I didn’t, but if a test has been done, show me the results of those tests, and I will see if I agree,” he replied.

“But you didn’t test it yourself, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” he said, but added: “I have done a lot of cases, and a lot of crime scenes, and that is my assessment.”

Captain Mangena’s account of events are in agreement with the pathologist who performed Ms Steenkamp’s post mortem examination - that she would almost certainly have screamed after sustaining the first non-fatal wounds, yet Pistorius carried on shooting.

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother June sat through long hours of testimony detailing her daughter’s wounds, and the trail of her blood through her boyfriend’s apartment as he carried her body down the stairs.

Pistorius may be called to testify as early as the middle of next week, after State Prosecutor Gerrie Nel dramatically requested the court be adjourned until Monday while he "reconsiders his case" and said the state is likely to conclude its case by the middle of next week.

Judge Thokozile Masipa granted the adjournment, with Roux raising no objections “on the understanding” that the state would conclude soon.

It means the trial is likely to be finished far earlier than had been anticipated.

There had been suggestions Pistorius may not testify until the end of April.

When asked whether whether Pistorius would appear first, Mr Roux replied “We don’t know yet”, though it seems unlikely he wouldn’t have already decided on this.

Mr Nel said he would be calling another “four or five witnesses”, which means that around 80 of the 107 witnesses on his list will not be called to give evidence at all.

At the trial's start, the athlete pleaded not guilty of murdering Ms Steenkamp, claiming he shot her in a case of mistaken identity thinking she was an intruder.

Prosecutors argue he intentionally shot and killed  his girlfriend following a domestic dispute.

If convicted of murder he will almost certainly receive a life sentence, with a minimum term of 25 years in prison.

The case continues.

Independent News Service

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