A South African forensic analyst has said at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial that a cricket bat was used to strike the toilet door at the athlete’s home, in testimony focusing on the events of the night when Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend.
Police Colonel J. G. Vermeulen on Wednesday lifted the bat in court and showed where it hit the wooden, bullet-marked door, another key piece of evidence that was erected in the courtroom.
Pistorius has said he shot Steenkamp by mistake, fearing she was an intruder in the night, and then bashed the door open with a cricket bat to get to his girlfriend when he realised what had happened. The prosecution says the February 14, 2013 killing was intentional and followed an argument between the couple.
The brown, bullet-marked toilet door through which Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend was set up in the courtroom at the athlete’s murder trial on Wednesday, as prosecutors prepared to recreate the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp a year ago for the judge.
Pistorius, lead defence lawyer Barry Roux and court officials gathered around the door ahead of the day’s proceedings, examining what appeared to be the bullet holes, which were apparently marked with white tags on the wood.
Pistorius, the world-famous double-amputee runner, is on trial for murder for firing four times through the door in a bathroom at his home on February 14 last year, hitting Steenkamp three times and killing her. He says he shot her by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder hiding in the toilet cubicle and denies murder. Prosecutors maintain Pistorius shot Steenkamp intentionally. He faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole if convicted on the murder charge.
The door has always been viewed as crucial evidence in the case, and was removed from Pistorius’ home in the hours after he shoot Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day morning last year. It was kept by police but also taken back to Pistorius’ Pretoria villa with their permission last year so that forensic experts working for the Olympian could do their own work on it.
In court, it was set up to the right of the room and was surrounded by a white border. Behind it, there was a recreation of the cubicle.
Darren Fresco, a one-time friend of Pistorius, was continuing his testimony at the start of the day on Wednesday. Fresco testified on Tuesday that he was with Pistorius on two occasions when the celebrated disabled runner shot guns in public in the six months before he killed Steenkamp.
Fresco said Pistorius fired without warning out of the sunroof of a moving car in September 2012 and then shot a gun by mistake under a table at a busy Johannesburg restaurant in January last year – around a month before he killed Steenkamp.
Pistorius is charged with murder in Steenkamp’s shooting death and three other firearm-related offences. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges and specifically denies he shot the gun out of the car, defence lawyer Roux said.