Monday 29 December 2014

Bloodied Pistorius images at trial

Published 14/03/2014 | 09:02

Oscar Pistorius will give evidence for the first time during his trial tomorrow
Oscar Pistorius will give evidence for the first time during his trial tomorrow
Barry Roux, the lawyer defending Oscar Pistorius

Police photographs of Oscar Pistorius on his blood-stained prosthetic legs and wearing shorts covered in blood, taken shortly after he fatally shot his girlfriend, have been shown to his murder trial.

Prosecutors displayed two photos on TV monitors in the courtroom, with the first of the muscled double-amputee standing facing a camera. There are blood stains up to the knees of his limbs and his shorts are also bloodied, but his naked chest appears to be clean of blood.

A second photograph of Pistorius from the waist up and from the left side also shows blood on his shorts and parts of his body, with a tattoo visible on his back.

The photographs were taken in Pistorius's Pretoria home soon after he killed Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year, a former policeman testified. Pistorius says he carried Ms Steenkamp downstairs to try to save her after mistakenly shooting her in his bathroom.

Former policeman GS van Rensburg described the early part of the investigation after he arrived at the scene around 30 to 40 minutes after prosecutors say Pistorius killed Ms Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of February 14, 2013.

The prosecution says Pistorius intentionally killed Ms Steenkamp in the upstairs bathroom after a loud argument and then tried to cover it up by saying he thought the 29-year-old model was an intruder. Pistorius, 27, maintains the killing was an accident and has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

Mr van Rensburg, the former commander at a police station close to Pistorius's home, said he did not arrest Pistorius immediately, but did warn him to remain at the house.

"I told him I observed him as a suspect at that stage," Mr van Rensburg said. "I warned him of his rights... I requested him to remain present at all times at the scene."

Mr van Rensburg said Pistorius was earlier "very emotional", and that the runner's brother and sister, Carl and Aimee, and a lawyer later arrived at the house.

A close-up photograph of the toilet inside the cubicle where Ms Steenkamp was shot three times, once in the head, was also displayed. It showed an extensive blood smear on the rim, as well as thick blood streaks in the bowl, where the water was also dark with blood.

Mr van Rensburg said he recognised the toilet door through which Pistorius shot as the "most valuable" piece of evidence, and that it was important to secure it, particularly since he had heard media were willing to pay thousands of pounds for a photo of it.

The toilet door was placed in a plastic "body bag" and transported to a police station, where Mr van Rensburg said he stored it in his office because it was too big to fit in an area normally reserved for evidence from crime scenes.

The police investigation has been heavily criticised by Pistorius's defence lawyer Barry Roux.

Mr Roux particularly questioned the conduct of former investigating officer Hilton Botha, who was thrown off the case last year and resigned from the police force.

Mr Roux repeatedly asked Mr van Rensburg what Mr Botha was doing at the scene during different parts of the investigation. Mr Botha admitted last year that he did not wear proper forensic clothing and shoe covers when he examined parts of the scene, and Pistorius's team believes the police disturbed evidence and may have tampered with it.

"You did not disturb anything in the bathroom? You did not see Mr Hilton Botha disturb anything in the bathroom?" Mr Roux asked Mr van Rensburg.

"Were you acutely aware that you should not disturb the scene? Did you have that awareness? And what was Mr Botha doing?", he also asked.

And again, Mr Roux said: "Where was Mr Botha now?" Mr van Rensburg said at points he did not know where his colleague was.

During the investigation in the bathroom, Mr van Rensburg also said he turned around at one point to see that the firearms expert was handling the gun Pistorius used to kill Ms Steenkamp and had taken the magazine out of the weapon without using gloves.

"I asked him, 'What are you doing?'" Mr van Rensburg testified. The officer realised his error, apologised, put the magazine back in the gun and laid it on the mat where it was on the floor.

"I was very angry," Mr van Rensburg said.

Mr van Rensburg also testified that one of Pistorius's expensive watches was apparently stolen from the crime scene that night. About eight watches were found in a blood-spattered box in Pistorius's bedroom and Mr van Rensburg said he warned fellow officers that the watches should be observed closely because they could be tempting to anyone moving through the crime scene.

Pistorius's sister asked if she could take one of the watches, leaving seven in place, he said. But Mr van Rensburg said another went missing while he was out of the room, prompting him to order the frisking of all the police forensic experts on the scene, as well as a search of their bags and vehicles, and the entire house.

Press Association

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