Updates from Friday, March 14
Day 10 of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp picked up from where things left off on Thursday with Col. Van Rensburg back in the stand, narrating over images taken of the inside of Pistorius' house.
Van Rensburg was initially in charge of the crime scene on the night in question, and he began with pictures of the bloodied bathroom.
Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, but Van Rensburg felt it was impossible for an impostor to enter through the bathroom window, per Sky News' Alex Crawford:
Van Rensburg then told of how he secured the crime scene, allowing nobody to go upstairs until all photos had been taken, per BBC News' Andrew Harding:
A box of watches (which later went missing) was next to be addressed by Van Rensburg, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman and Crawford. The defence has attempted to discredit the police by raising the issue of the missing watches, but Van Rensburg said all necessary precautions were taken:
Focus then switched to the toilet door, which Van Rensburg kept in his office—not the evidence room—for a week. The defence is expected to leap on that fact, so Prosecutor Gerrie Nel addressed it first:
Defence lawyer Barry Roux's turn to quiz the witness arrived, and he instantly went on the offensive, accusing the prosecution of attempting to avoid putting Hilton Botha—the man who led the State's case during the bail hearing—on the stand:
Roux then went over Van Rensburg's statement, ready to pick out inconsistencies as he has with every other witness:
During the tea break, Crawford tweeted the following image of Pistorius, taken by police on the night of Steenkamp's death:
Roux continued to take Van Rensburg back through his statement, highlighting discrepancies between where he and Botha were when walking through the house:
A game of spot the difference followed as Roux showed Van Rensburg a series of similar—but different—pictures, asking what he observed. The aim was to embarrass the witness and prove his account cannot be trusted because evidence had been moved:
Court adjourned until Monday.
Updates from Thursday, March 13
Forensic expert Lt. Col. Vermeulen returned for further cross-examination from defence lawyer Barry Roux on Day 9 of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.
However, the real focus of the day were the images shown of the inside to Pistorius' house, taken on the night in question. A walk-through of the house showed blood-smattered walls, tiles and steps, leading toward the bathroom, where Steenkamp was killed.
Vermeulen had stated his belief on Wednesday that Pistorius could not have been on his prosthetic legs—as claimed by the accused—while smashing down the toilet cubicle door, behind which Steenkamp was hidden.
However, Roux punched several holes in Vermeulen's account, highlighting evidence to suggest the door had been tampered with. He continued his attack on Vermeulen on Thursday, per BBC News' Andrew Harding and Sky News' Alex Crawford:
A key argument by Roux is that missing pieces of the door show Pistorius tried to kick the door with his prosthetic legs. Eventually, Vermeulen confessed there is a possibility that might be true:
Vermeulen acknowledged there is a mark on the door made by a prosthetic, but refused to agree with Roux that it proves Pistorius kicked it while trying to bash down the door (implication being that he could have done it after):
Roux continued to pursue his dual aim. First to prove Pistorius was wearing prosthetics when bashing down the door, and second to discredit Vermeulen and the police. Karyn Maughan of eNCA tweeted:
At one stage, a picture of the deceased's body was inadvertently shown on screen, shocking those in attendance. Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman captured the reaction:
Before Roux returned to his seat, he asked Vermeulen if he had witnessed the following video on the difference between the sound of a gunshot and a cricket bat hitting a door. Vermeulen said he hadn't:
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was then allowed to reexamine Vermeulen. He raised Roux's claim that the door had been kicked by a prosthetic leg, hinting Pistorius may have kicked the door to scare Steenkamp:
Yet more distress followed for Pistorius, as further pictures of Steenkamp's body flashed onto the screen. It sparked an adjournment, during which he appeared to express his displeasure:
Upon resumption, new witness Col. Van Rensburg was called. Van Rensburg allegedly had the door in his office, rather than the evidence room, for a week.
He recalled the night in question, finding Steenkamp's body on the floor, with an inconsolable Pistorius in the kitchen. Carice Stander, daughter of the estate manager, was also there:
Various pictures of the house layout were shown. Crawford, Harding and Bateman noted details as the images advanced through the house, eventually reaching the bathroom and toilet cubicle, where Steenkamp was shot:
Court adjourned until Friday morning.
Updates from Wednesday, March 12
Wednesday represented a significant day in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, who shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead on Valentine's Day 2013. Pistorius claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.
Day 8 of the trial saw a 1:1 scale model of Pistorius' toilet door and cubicle set up in the courtroom. Forensic expert Lt. Col. Vermeulen then delivered his findings based on a study of the door, claiming Pistorius was not on his prosthetic legs—as claimed by the accused—when he bashed the door with a cricket bat.
However, the defence questioned several bits of missing evidence from Vermeulen, as detailed below.
Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman and Sky News' Alex Crawford first described the scenes inside the courtroom:
Forensic expert Vermeulen began to present his findings to the court. He started with a metal plate on the bath, which had been damaged, but he had not discovered the cause:
Next, Vermeulen looked at the door, addressing the key issue of whether Pistorius was on his prosthetics when he hit the door with the bat. Pistorius claims he put his prosthetics on to break down the door once he realised he had mistakenly shot Steenkamp.
The BBC's Andrew Harding and Eyewitness News' Bateman describe Vermeulen's findings of the technique used to hit the door:
Johannesburg journalist Erin Conway-Smith and Jacaranda Newsteam provide pictures of the witness wielding the bat:
Following an adjournment, defence lawyer Barry Roux took his chance to cross-examine forensics expert Lt. Col. Vermeulen.
He first asked him to stand on his knees, highlighting that Pistorius would not have had the necessary balance to bash the door without being on his prosthetic legs:
Roux then questioned the handling of forensic evidence by Vermeulen and his team, before suggesting he withheld information from his report to allow the State to "ambush" the defence with Wednesday's findings:
Debate then turned to the trajectory at which the bat was swung. The defence argued that the bat could be swung lower than shown by Vermeulen, contradicting his report that Pistorius wasn't on his prosthetic legs.
However, Vermeulen responded by saying there are marks on the bat that indicate Pistorius was not on his prosthetics:
A key moment then arrived as Vermeulen confirmed the door was still in place when shots were fired through the door, consistent with Pistorius' case:
Roux then quizzed Vermeulen further on the missing parts of the door. The defence claims those missing parts were evidence that Pistorius had kicked the door with his prosthetic legs:
Additionally, Roux attacked the competency of the police, insisting they trampled on the evidence before wiping off shoes marks:
Finally, focus switched to pictures of inside the toilet cubicle. At this point Pistorius became visibly distressed:
Court adjourned, with Vermeulen's cross-examination to continue on Thursday.
Updates from Tuesday, March 11
Day 7 of the trial into Oscar Pistorius' shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp brought the cross-examination of pathologist Professor Gert Saayman.
Pistorius is accused of premeditated murder but claims he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, and on Tuesday his defence lawyer—Barry Roux—had the chance to quiz Professor Saayman's postmortem findings.
Roux first established what effect each bullet would have had on Steenkamp's bodily functions. Roux had previously argued that Steenkamp could not have screamed, as suggested by multiple witnesses, after being shot in the head. Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman provided the details:
Saayman then addressed the possibility Steenkamp was using the toilet at the time of the killing, consistent with Pistorius' defence. The response was inconclusive:
Focus then turned to the food found in Steenkamp's stomach, which Saayman said on Monday could not have been ingested more than two hours before her death (Pistorius had said they went to bed five hours before the shooting).
Saayman based his finding on experience of over 15,000 postmortems and multiple textbooks. Roux asked to study such textbooks, per the BBC's Andrew Harding:
Roux attempted to highlight that Saayman's approximation that Steenkamp had eaten within two hours of her death was not exact.
However, the pathologist appeared to strongly contradict Pistorius' version of events, which said they had gone to bed five hours before the shooting:
Roux sat down to allow Prosecutor Gerrie Nel to reexamine the witness, who discussed Steenkamp's likely reaction to being shot. It is the State's belief that Steenkamp screamed on the night in question, a view supported by Saayman, per Sky News' Alex Crawford:
Next into the stand was Darren Fresco, the friend of Pistorius who was present at two separate shooting incidents. He took the blame for Pistorius when a gun was fired in a restaurant, and he was also in the car when a traffic light was shot through the sunroof.
Recalling the sunroof event, Fresco said the following:
Fresco then recalled the restaurant incident:
Defence lawyer Roux took his chance to cross-examine, asking Fresco why he had not previously mentioned the fact he took the blame for Pistorius in his statement:
Roux continued to try to punch holes in Fresco's statement, insisting Fresco was as keen as Pistorius to shoot the traffic light, referring to witness Samantha Taylor's earlier account:
Crucially, Roux revealed Pistorius will deny shooting through the sunroof:
Once again, Roux spent a great deal of time arguing over small details in relation to the restaurant shooting, attempting to discredit Fresco, leaving Harding less than impressed:
However, Roux did appear to end the day powerfully, rattling Fresco as inconsistencies came to light.
Fresco first appeared to confess that it may not have been Pistorius' idea for him to take the blame for the restaurant incident, and he also appeared to hint he had been following the trial in the media:
Court adjourned until Wednesday.
Oscar Pistorius is currently standing trial for the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend, in Pretoria's North Gauteng High Court, South Africa.
The Paralympic "Blade Runner" is appearing in a case that has caught the entire world's interest, as he battles to prove he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder before shooting her dead on Valentine's Day 2013, per Sky Sports.
The prosecution will counter this with an argument that suggests Pistorius meant to shoot the 29-year-old multiple times after a spell of arguments, reported by Ben Quinn and David Smith of The Guardian.
Pistorius pleaded not guilty at the onset of the case, per Tom Peck of The Independent:
Heading into the second week, both Pistorius and his lawyer have grabbed many headlines during the opening stages of the trial.
Barry Roux's intense dissection of witnesses has caused many reactions across the media. Lucy Thornton of the Mirror best sums up his divisive attitude—which sees Roux appear chummy before showing little regard for the witnesses' emotional state—calling him a "bumbling poodle" who turns into a "snarling rottweiler" within seconds.
Andrew Harding of the BBC highlighted this by describing Roux's persistence when speaking to witness Michelle Burger:
The second week began with a pathologist suggesting Steenkamp could have eaten two hours prior to death at 1 a.m., meaning she is unlikely to have gone to bed at 10 p.m., per Pistorius' suggestion, noted by Alex Crawford of Sky News:
Pistorius had previously appeared seriously uncomfortable when details of Steenkamp's injuries were read out. He eventually vomited in the court room, per Crawford:
Pistorius could be sentenced for life and will receive a minimum prison term of 25 years if found guilty. His trial has produced intense global interest and is reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson case in terms of relentless media coverage.
Both Pistorius and Roux should be expected to claim much of the limelight across the remainder of the trial, as Judge Thokozile Masipa aims to land Steenkamp and her family some kind of justice.