independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Pistorius defence hits back at police case

Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during a break in court proceedings today

THE Oscar Pistorius bail hearing drama will enter a third day tomorrow after a mesmerising court session in Pretoria during which the police investigation into the death of Reeva Steenkamp came under heavy scrutiny.

At one point, Magistrate Desmond Nair asked the police inspector handling the case: "Can I just say, the accused before court is an international athlete, paralympic athlete, he uses prosthesis on both legs. I'm sure we would both agree that his face is widely recognised internationally.

 

"Do you subjectively believe that he would take the opportunity, being who he is, using prosthesics to get around, to flee South Africa?"

 

Investigating officer Hilton Botha said "yes", which brought laughter to the courtroom on a tense day.

 

"I believe for someone facing 15 years to life, I would make a plan to get out and go somewhere, with the finances he has," he added.

 

This came came at the end of a torrid session of cross examination for the police, during which the key aspects of their case were taken apart by defence lawyer, Barry Roux.

 

When Mr Botha started to give evidence this morning, he said one key witness had heard "non-stop shouting" at Mr Pistorius' home in the early hours of February 14, shortly before he shot Reeva Steenkamp, 29, dead.

 

However, Mr Roux forced the policeman to admit that the witness lived some 600m from Mr Pistorius' house. He later backtracked on the figure, putting it at "around 300m".

 

Mr Botha said another witness had heard gunfire and gone out to his balcony to see "that the lights in the house were on". He then heard a female scream before two more shots were fired.

 

But the defence said the screams from the house were those of Mr Pistorius, in distress at what had happened.

 

The policeman said that a Carl Pistorius - a brother of the accused - had taken a memory stick with the details of the athlete's offshore accounts from the house, and that both "testosterone" and an unlicensed 38mm handgun were found there.

 

But Mr Pistorius' defence again hit back.

Mr Roux said the medication in the house was homeopathic and legal. He said the police had failed to discover a bullet casing in the toilet and that they had not made efforts to trace a phone call from the house to the emergency services which Mr Pistorius made at 3.20am.

 

Mr Roux asked repeatedly why the police did not make simple checks - over the lighting and whether Pistorius had other phones.

 

The lawyer said Pistorius phoned the housing complex manager for help at 3.19am then Netcare hospital a minute later.

 

Mr Roux said the police discarded anything that might have been consistent with a defence.

 

Pistorius has admitted shooting his girlfriend with a 9mm pistol but said he thought a burglar or burglars were in the bathroom and he did not intend to shoot the model.

 

The athlete has said he believed intruders were in his house so he fired through the bathroom door in the dark as he was too scared to turn the light on.

 

Discovering his mistake, he broke the door down with a cricket bat and carried her downstairs, he said.

 

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow morning when a decision over bail might be made.

 

A full trial of the Paralympic star, 26, is not expected for months.

- Rob Williams, Independent.co.uk

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