Police: No inconsistencies in Pistorius' account of shooting
PRETORIA, South Africa — A police detective, testifying at Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing Wednesday, said that police have not found anything inconsistent with how the star athlete described his shooting of his girlfriend — a killing that Pistorius says was accidental but which prosecutors call murder.
The second day of the bail hearing in a case that has riveted South Africa and much of the world appeared at first to go against the double-amputee runner, with prosecutor Gerrie Nel saying a witness can testify to hearing “non-stop talking, like shouting” between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. before the predawn shooting on Valentine's Day.
Pistorius said in an affidavit read in court Tuesday that he and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and budding reality TV star, had gone to bed and that when he awoke during the night he detected what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. He testified that he grabbed his 9 mm pistol and fired into the bathroom door, only to discover later to his horror that Steenkamp was there, mortally wounded.
Under cross-examination by the defense, police Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha acknowledged that the witness who allegedly overheard the argument was 600 yards from Pistorius' house, where the shooting occurred.
Later, prosecutor Nel re-questioned Botha, and the detective said the distance was actually much closer.
Pistorius, the first Paralympian runner to compete at the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder in the case.
The prosecution attempted to cement its argument that the couple had a shouting match, that Steenkamp fled and locked herself into the toilet and that Pistorius fired four shots through the door, hitting her with three bullets.
Botha added: “I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door.”
But asked if the police found anything inconsistent with the version of events presented by Pistorius, Botha responded that they had not.
Botha, who has 24 years' experience as a policeman and 16 as a detective, said the trajectory of the bullets showed the gun was fired pointed down and from a height. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has said the killing was premeditated because Pistorius took time to put on his prosthetic legs before the shooting. Pistorius' statement Tuesday, however, said that he was on his stumps and feeling vulnerable when he opened fired.
Nel projected a plan of the bedroom and bathroom for the courtroom and argued Pistorius had to walk past his bed to get to the bathroom and could not have done so without realizing the Steenkamp was not in the bed.
“There's no other way of getting there,” Nel said.
Hilton said the holster for the 9 mm pistol was found under the side of the bed on which Steenkamp slept — also implying it would have been impossible for Pistorius to get the gun without realizing that Steenkamp was not in the bed and could have been the person in the bathroom. Pistorius testified Tuesday that the bedroom was pitch dark.
Hilton said Steenkamp was shot in the head over her right ear and in her right elbow and hip, with both joints broken by the impacts.
Defense attorney Barry Roux asked Botha if Steenkamp's body showed “any pattern of defensive wounds,” and the detective said it did not.
Botha said the shots were fired from 5 feet, and that police found three spent cartridges in the bathroom and one in the hallway connecting the bathroom to the bedroom.
Police also found two iPhones in the bathroom and two BlackBerrys in the bedroom, Hilton said, adding that none had been used to phone for help. Pistorius had said that he called the manager of his guarded and gated housing complex and a private paramedic service.
Roux said Pistorius did make calls, including to the guards of the housing estate. In one case, he said, a guard could hear Pistorius crying.
“Was it part of his premeditated plan, not to switch off the phone and cry?” Roux asked sarcastically.
Botha said Pistorius did not have a license for a .38-caliber weapon and consequently his possession of ammunition for such a weapon was illegal.
The detective said that all Pistorius would say after the shooting was “he thought it was a burglar.”
In an additional revelation Wednesday, police said they found two boxes of testosterone and needles in the Pistorius' bedroom.
But Roux said the substance was an “herbal remedy,” and not a steroid or a banned substance.
Police “take every piece of evidence and try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court,” defense lawyer Roux said.
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