Updates from Friday, May 9
Oscar Pistorius returned to court on Friday to continue his fight against a charge of premeditated murder after he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius claims he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder on Valentine's Day 2013, but the prosecution continues to argue that he knowingly fired his gun following an argument.
You can watch the live broadcast right here (subject to your territory):
Forensics expert Wollie Wolmarans—called by the defence—spent all day in the witness box, continuing his analysis of how the bullets were fired, as well as the position of Steenkamp's body upon impact.
Captain Mangena, a state witness, had earlier stated that bullet hole B missed Steenkamp, affording time for her to scream. He also claimed she was hit by a bullet ricochet, causing a contusion on her back.
Wolmarans' findings contradicted those claims, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman:
The Guardian's David Smith noted Wolmarans' version of what caused bruising to Steenkamp's back:
BBC News' Milton Nkosi highlighted a further contradiction between the findings of Wolmarans and Mangena:
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel then got his chance to cross-examine the witness, instantly picking holes as he has done with so many others over the past week.
Nel began by asking Wolmarans why his report is dated April 23, when the defence's previous forensics expert, Roger Dixon, was excused from court on April 16, seven days earlier:
Wolmarans then volunteered information that Pistorius vomited when shown a picture of the deceased. Again, Nel was quick to pounce, accusing the witness of showing bias toward Pistorius:
Focus switched to a series of lasers set up in court by Mangena, which showed the prosecution's analysis of how the bullets were fired. Both Mangena and Wolmarans agreed that the first wound was caused to the hip, and the last was to the head.
However, they disagreed over the position of Steenkamp's body and where she fell. Hole B in the toilet door is crucial. The prosecution claims the bullet fired through hole B missed, whereas the defence claims to the contrary:
Wolmarans then contradicted Pistorius' claims about the positioning of the magazine rack. Pistorius had claimed the rack was not directly next to the toilet, because that's where he found Steenkamp's body:
Following lunch, Nel and Wolmarans debated further the topic of bullet trajectory, focusing on whether the bullet that travelled through hole B hit Steenkamp or not.
Nel also grilled the witness over his decision not to confer with the defence team's pathologist:
Wolmarans was then forced to make another admission:
Court adjourned until Monday.
Updates from Thursday, May 8
Oscar Pistorius' defence team expects to wrap up its case over the next week, and on Thursday more witnesses were called to prove the athlete's shooting of Reeva Steenkamp was not premeditated.
Evidence of food in Steenkamp's stomach, Pistorius' character, and forensics were all under the microscope on a key day in the trial.
The subject of Steenkamp's stomach contents were first to be addressed on Thursday. Professor Christina Lundgren, an anaesthetist who is an expert in gastric emptying, was called to the witness box.
Pistorius claims Steenkamp last ate at around 7pm on the night of her death, some eight hours before she died. However, the prosecution has previously provided evidence that she may have had a meal within two hours of her shooting.
BBC News' Andrew Harding and the Telegraph's Aislinn Laing provided Lundgren's findings:
Lundgren then commented directly on Steenkamp:
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel then got his chance to cross-examine Lundgren. He immediately pushed the witness on whether, in all likelihood, Steenkamp's stomach would have been empty eight hours after eating, per Eyewitness News' Barry Bateman:
Nel pushed harder, insisting Professor Gert Saayman was able to identify the food left in Steenkamp's stomach. He quizzed Lundgren as to whether that is possible after eight hours:
Nel highlighted Lundgren's own comment that, after four hours, 10 percent of food would be left in a normal individual.
The prosecutor used simple maths to suggest that figure proves Steenkamp must have eaten much later than 7pm, supporting the State's version that she argued with Pistorius—as heard by several neighbours—prior to her death:
After an adjournment, defence lawyer Barry Roux called Yvette van Schalkwyk—a social worker—as his next witness. Van Schalkwyk monitored Pistorius' behaviour during his court appearances in February 2013.
She explained that she came forward to testify on Tuesday, after hearing claims Pistorius had taken acting classes ahead of this trial:
Nel received his chance to quiz the witness, moving quickly to show how irrelevant Van Schalkwyk's testimony is. He also pounced on her revelation that Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp by accident:
Nel has painted Pistorius as a self-involved character throughout the trial, and he used Van Schalkwyk to add to that picture.
Fixating on her claim that Pistorius was sorry, Nel highlighted a key difference in the context of that emotion:
The day's third witness was forensic expert Wollie Wolmarans, who instantly turned attentions to the gunshots fired through the toilet door at Steenkamp.
Wolmarans delivered a highly technical analysis of the bullet trajectories, insisting deflection must be taken into account. He concluded that it was impossible to define the sequence in which the bullets were fired:
Court adjourned until Friday morning.
Updates from Tuesday, May 6
Oscar Pistorius' defence team continued its attempt to establish the athlete's credibility on Tuesday, as the accused continues to defend a charge of premeditated murder.
Pistorius claims he mistook girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder on the night in which he shot her dead, and on Tuesday defence lawyer Barry Roux began by calling his closest neighbour, Michael Nhlengethwa, to the witness box.
BBC News' Andrew Harding described the proximity of Nhlengethwa's house to Pistorius, and what he heard on the night of the incident:
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel got the chance to cross-examine the witness, and wanted to test his claims that he heard a man crying, not screaming.
After a brief delay while Nel scrabbled to find the exact quote, he highlighted the difference to the court, showing Pistorius said he screamed:
Nhlengethwa's wife, Eontle, replaced her husband in the stand and gave a very similar version of events, indicating a male's screams for help. Sky News' Alex Crawford noted the significance of the testimony:
However, Nel highlighted that Nhlengethwa's version of events contradicts several other accounts given by neighbours of the night in question:
Following an adjournment, a third neighbour—from the other side of Pistorius' house—was called by the defence: Ria Motshuane.
The witness was initially delayed, prompting Roux to assure the judge he intends to wrap up his case inside the next week:
Motshuane delivered a similar account to the Nhlengethwas, claiming only a man screamed, per Crawford. Court then adjourned until Thursday morning.
Updates from Monday, May 5
After an extended adjournment, the trial of Oscar Pistorius resumed on Monday, with the runner's defence team calling in two witnesses for examination.
Pistorius denies a charge of premeditated murder after he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead on Valentine's Day in 2013, insisting that he believed her to be an intruder. The prosecution are looking to prove Pistorius turned the gun on Steenkamp after an argument.
Stander is the estate manager for the area where Pistorius was living when the shooting occurred. He had a consultation with the prosecution in December last year, and said he was going to be called as a state witness for the trial. In the end, he never was.
Stander was questioned by Kenny Oldwage, with defence lawyer Barry Roux choosing to take a back-seat on the first morning following the 18-day break.
Stander, who decided he didn’t want to be televised, recalled the events of Valentine's Day 2013, when he was called by a disturbed Pistorius in the small hours of that morning, documented here by the BBC’s Africa correspondent, Andrew Harding:
On his arrival at Pistorius' premises, Stander said he immediately realised that Steenkamp was badly injured, reported here by Sky News’ Alex Crawford:
He then went on to discuss Pistorius’ behaviour on arrival at the house. Stander spoke of how the athlete was beside himself with sorrow, something the witness thought went a long way to proving his innocence:
Stander was then pulled up by prosecution lawyer Gerrie Nel after their questioning, when the witness claimed that Pistorius said “it was a mistake” whilst on their initial phone call.
Nel was keen to push the witness on this, but Stander seemed reluctant to deviate from his initial statement:
Nel went on to press Stander about the light in the house. The prosecution lawyer questioning as to whether or not there was sufficient illumination at that hour to fully gauge the emotions of the athlete. Stander insisted there was.
At this juncture, Nel requested a short recess to enable him to consult his notes. On resumption, Nel retired to the bench and after a few more questions from the defence, Stander was excused.
The next witness sworn into the box was the daughter of Mr Stander, Carice Viljoen.
Examined by Roux, she spoke of how she was awoken on the aforementioned morning by the sound of dogs barking, before making out the screams of somebody looking for help, as documented here by Barry Bateman of Eyewitness News:
Viljoen insisted it was a man's voice that she could hear shouting and not long after, her parents told her they'd received a call from Pistorius, claiming he'd shot Reeva.
That prompted Viljoen and her father to drive to Pistorius' home where on arrival, she saw the athlete carrying his girlfriend down the stairs, pleading for help.
She then went on to recount the emotional discussion she had with Pistorius in great detail:
Viljoen claimed that once the paramedics arrived, she and Pistorius moved through into the kitchen. The paramedics asked the athlete for Steenkamp's ID, and she followed him upstairs to obtain her handbag, worried that Pistorius may injure himself with the gun that was still upstairs.
Pistorius was seen with his head in his hands as Viljoen recalled the harrowing details:
Nel began his examination of the witness, taking a much friendlier tone with Viljoen than he did with her father. Again, he asked about the illumination in the house, to which she responded that she was unaware what lights were on and which were off.
A short adjournment followed, with the judge asking to see both Roux and Nel. On resumption, Nel questioned Viljoen about the athlete's behaviour, asking her whether he seemed conscious of what was going on around him.
Viljoen was excused, and Roux asked for an adjournment, claiming he was unsuccessful in getting hold of other witnesses:
Court was subsequently adjourned until Tuesday morning.
Oscar Pistorius returned to court on Monday following an 18-day adjournment to the Reeva Steenkamp murder case, which reopened in Pretoria, South Africa.
Pistorius, who is aiming to prove he mistook girlfriend Steenkamp for an intruder before shooting her dead on Valentine's Day 2013, has faced weeks of evidence in the run-up to Judge Thokozile Masipa's final verdict.
Prior to April 17's lengthy break, prosecutor Gerrie Nel continued his masterful grilling of Pistorius' defence team, focusing his efforts on forensic expert Roger Dixon.
The defence and prosecution dispute the speed at which gunshots were fired on the night in question, which is key to establishing whether Steenkamp would have had time to scream. Neighbours heard a range of sounds, both gunfire and the bangs of a cricket bat against a door.
An audio test was played in court to show the similarities of both noises, but Nel dismissed its legitimacy, per Alex Crawford of Sky News:
Many witnesses also believe they heard Steenkamp scream after shots were fired; a potentially vital point if proven true. Dr Johan Stipp and his wife Anette were two such attendees to claim this, reported by Richard Hartley-Parkinson of the Mirror:
"It was moments after the shots I heard a lady screaming, terrified, terrified screaming," said Mrs Stipp. "The screaming just continued. It did not stop." Michelle Burger, another witness, also spoke of the "blood-curdling" screams that have been referenced multiple times in court.
Dixon suggested such noises were impossible due to Steenkamp receiving a fatal wound to the head via bullets that were fired in quick sequence, giving the deceased no time to react.
Nel aimed to disprove Dixon's theory by highlighting him as an amateur, asking the forensic expert how the defence team's story can challenge the accuracy of the autopsy carried out by Professor Saayman. Crawford and BBC News' Andrew Harding provided the details:
Dixon proceeded to give his account of where Steenkamp's body was placed via a showing of graphic images. He contradicted Pistorius' suggestion that police had moved the magazine rack—an object which supposedly caused Steenkamp lacerated injuries—noted by Crawford:
Attention then progressed to the Stipps' claims that Pistorius could be seen walking past the window on the night of Steenkamp's murder, with the bathroom light on. This claim was belittled by the defence, who suggest the light was off and Pistorius would be too short without his prosthetic legs, which he supposedly wasn't wearing before Steenkamp's murder.
Although Dixon carried out visibility tests through the window, Nel asked why he didn't accurately replicate Pistorius' stature with someone of the same height, detailed by Crawford:
A key point arose when Dixon admitted his analysis of Pistorius' legs was completed using photographs. He never physically interacted with the walking apparatus, per Crawford:
The defence will now look to repair some of the damage caused by its latest witness. Key to Pistorius' defence is to show Steenkamp had not time to scream amid the gunfire.
Judge Masipa is also likely to base much of her decision on whether Steenkamp's screams can be proven, while Pistorius' team will also seek to prove gunshots were rapidly fired in defence, and not pre-planned.
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