Africa

Thursday 31 July 2014

Pistorius trial expert 'surfed net' to get help on evidence

Aislinn Laing

Published 17/04/2014|02:30

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Forensic expert Roger Dixon  testifies during the trial of South African Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius
Forensic expert Roger Dixon testifies during the trial of South African Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius's forensic expert – in a bruising day of cross-examination in the witness box – admitted he surfed the internet for research and used a music producer to splice together recordings of gunshots being fired.

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Roger Dixon, a former police forensics chief-turned university professor and expert-for-hire, has given evidence about marks on the lavatory door through whichPistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, blood spatters, sounds heard by neighbours and the lighting conditions at the athlete's Pretoria home on the night of February 14 last year.

The scientist, a forensic geologist by training who spent 18 years with the police, contradicted the state pathologist, saying he was wrong about the order of bullets fired and the injuries inflicted on Steenkamp.

Roger Dixon agreed that the first shot hit the victim in the hip, and the fourth in the head. But, unlike the prosecution, who said the second bullet missed and ricocheted and the third hit her in the arm, he said the second hit her in the arm shortly after the first, and the third nicked her hand before ricocheting.

He said injuries to the model's back were caused by her falling on the magazine rack in the toilet and not, as the state pathologist said, by the second bullet after it ricocheted off the wall.

Mr Dixon also contradicted the state ballistics expert that Steenkamp would have been standing facing the door when she was hit, saying instead that she would have been rising from a sitting position with her hand reaching towards the handle.

"I think the deceased was falling, four shots in rapid succession and they hit as she was falling and turning," he said.

Recordings were played to the court of two sets of gunshots and compared to the sound of a cricket bat hitting the lavatory door.

Pistorius (27) claims he fired at the lavatory door thinking an intruder was inside, then beat down the door with a cricket bat when he realised his girlfriend was inside.

Mr Dixon's evidence of Steenkamp being shot as she rose from sitting, and four bullets fired in quick succession, contradict the prosecution account that she was standing arguing with Pistorius through the locked lavatory door and had time to scream out as she was shot – cries they say were heard by several neighbours.

But Gerrie Nel, the state prosecutor, tore into the academic's evidence – highlighting his lack of qualifications to issue pronouncements on sound tests, blood spatters or ballistics.

He established that Mr Dixon did not attend Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem, had only witnessed three autopsies in his life, and had not read fully the report of Professor Gert Saayman, the state pathologist who dissected Steenkamp's body.

He forced Mr Dixon to admit that the gun the defence team bought to shoot at a replica door jammed repeatedly so they employed a music producer to splice together recordings of the individual shots being fired.

Mr Dixon also admitted he went on the internet to check what gunshots sounded like before giving evidence.

Challenged by Mr Nel that he had led the court to believe he was present for all the tests, he said: "There was no design or intent on behalf of myself or Mr Wolmarans (the defence ballistics evidence) to mislead the court or prosecution."

He agreed he was never given the cricket bat Pistorius used to break down the door to conduct independent tests.

When the defence expert conceded he was a "layman" on matters of pathology, Mr Nel told him he was "irresponsible" to agree to give evidence in a court. The case continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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