Ballistics expert recreates Oscar shooting

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iol news pic Wollie Wolmarans Oscar expert

AP

Tom "Wollie" Wolmarans, a retired South African Police Service forensics expert, arrives for the Oscar Pistorius trial at the high court in Pretoria. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Pretoria - The defence has started to provide their own ballistic evidence that could provide yet another version of Reeva Steenkamp’s final moments.

The third witness on the stand was Wollie Wolmarans, the defence's own ballistics expert, with four decades of experience.

Wolmarans said he was asked by the defence to assist their team during the bail application last year.

At first, he was asked to forensically determine if Pistorius had been on his stumps - and approximately a meter and a half away - when he shot through the cubicle door, but the state conceded these points at the beginning of trial.

Wolmarans had investigated the crime scene personally a short while after the police cleared Pistorius' home.

He noted that the toilet door had been removed by police. Wolmarans was also responsible for finding a bullet fragment in the toilet bowl and a small piece of tile that was missed by investigators.

The investigator was also in attendance when police re-framed the door at the home to determine - among other things - the sequence of events on the night of the shooting.

He explained various trigger positions and ways to fire the firearm used in the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, either single shots or “double taps”. Wolmarans said when the trigger is pulled, an “explosion” propels the projectile out of the barrel, resulting in some recoil. He said the Ranger ammunition used by Pistorius “mushrooms” out when it hits flesh, creating larger wounds on its target than other types of bullets. However, he said that upon hitting the toilet cubicle door Pistorius fired through, the stability of the bullet would be compromised. He said the bullets were not Black Talon, as previously reported by state experts, because the bullets used had a lower grain content.

He said that considering the significant damage to the door, it was unlikely that it was reconstructed perfectly, and this could have affected some of the bullet trajectory data collected by the ballistics experts who examined it.

He added that any of the four bullets fired through the door could have caused the ricochet mark found inside the bathroom.

Wolmarans said the state expert, Chris Mangena’s linking of the second bullet hole to the ricochet point ignored the possibility of the bullet’s deflection.

Using a door taken from Pistorius’ pantry, Wolmarans’ team conducted their own tests using the same type of firearm.

He set up a series of witness boards behind the door to determine how the bullets splinter upon impact.

Wolmarans claimed he was able to match the splinter pattern on the boards to the wounds on Steenkamp’s forearm.

He argued that the splinters showed that Steenkamp’s arm was between 6 and 20cms away from the toilet door when she was hit.

Wolmarans said if her arm was any further, it would have not had the same wound pattern.

He then moved onto the marks on the door, which he said were consistent with Pistorius using a cricket bat to break it down.

Wolmarans also examined Steenkamp’s vest and said the wounds on Steenkamp’s chest were actually caused by a bone fragment hitting her, rather than any bullet fragments as originally posed by the state.

“We can’t say with certainty what the position of the deceased was at the time when the shots were fired,” said Wolmarans, but he theorised that Steenkamp must have been in an upright position, possibly leaning forward when she was first hit.

He said she would have been unstable after the first bullet struck her hip, causing her to collapse.

Wolmarans also believed it would be difficult to determine the sequence of shots as well.

The Star


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