Court examines toilet door clueComment on this story
Oscar Pistorius came face to face with the wooden door of his bathroom on Wednesday, as he walked into Court GD at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
The door was erected in court, standing in a frame and leading into a white three-dimensional model of his bathroom, to its exact measurements complete with a toilet.
This model was used by the State’s first forensic expert, to demonstrate how Pistorius went about hitting the door with a Lazer English Willow Club Plus cricket bat. It is due to be used by the prosecution during the evidence of further experts, including ballistics experts.
The bullet holes can clearly be seen in the wooden panels of the door, as well as the splintering where Pistorius tried to bash it down in his endeavour to rescue Reeva Steenkamp from behind the door.
The door had tongues wagging at the start of Wednesday’s proceedings, with everyone at first wondering whether it was the actual door through which Pistorius shot Steenkamp.
Pistorius and his legal team studied the door close up.
Judge Thokozile Masipa was soon told that this was the actual door. During a break, following a stint of forensic expert Johannes Vermeulen’s evidence that Pistorius was on his stumps when he bashed the door with a cricket bat, the defence team again inspected the door closely.
Barry Roux, SC, with the cricket bat in hand, took a few swings towards the door, apparently to try and clear up some point.
Pistorius at a stage also held the cricket bat while standing next to the door, but he did not swing it about.
The damaged door is about 1.85m. The first mark measured 1.53m from the ground, was meant to be a key part of the State’s case against the athlete, but police incompetence seems to have cast doubt on the crucial information it holds.
Marks on the frame, a bloody police footprint and Prestik have left investigators with egg on their faces.
Vermeulen testified how he had smashed the door with the Lazer cricket bat while on his stumps – in so doing contradicting Pistorius’s version of events. At his bail application, the athlete told the court he had been on his stumps when he fired at the bathroom door behind which he thought there was an intruder.
Roux said he would lead expert evidence to prove that Pistorius has no balance when he is standing on his stumps and that it was thus impossible for him to swing the bat while on his stumps.
It was only after the shots were fired that he claims to have realised it was his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp inside the toilet. He went to put on his prosthetic legs, grabbed a cricket bat and began striking the door to get inside.
But according to Vermeulen, the marks created on the door were low enough to prove that Pistorius was still on his stumps.
Vermeulen said Pistorius would have had to have been in an extremely unnatural position to have been standing on his prosthetics and to have created the marks seen on the door and cricket bat.
Under cross-examination, Vermeulen admitted that the cracks in the door showed that at least one of the bullets had been fired before the cricket bat assault on the frame.
Roux then asked about the door’s condition when Vermeulen first examined it on March 8 last year, weeks after the incident.
Vermeulen said the door had been brought to him in a body bag, and that the loose frames had been held together in the door using screws and Prestik.
Roux then posited that one of the marks on the door had been created by Pistorius’s prosthetic leg, and that fabric from his sock could be found embedded inside it.
Vermeulen was only able to say that it had not been caused by a cricket bat.
Roux questioned why the door had not been tested to determine if it had been kicked and Vermeulen explained that this had not been requested as part of the analysis.
It was then that Roux handed in a picture of the door at the crime scene, and a loose panel lying in a pool of blood with a large shoe print on it. When the photo was shown, Pistorius covered his face with his left hand.
Vermeulen said it was likely the footprint came from police issue shoes, and detectives may have stepped on the evidence – thereby contaminating the scene. Roux insisted the shoe print had been wiped off, prompting Vermeulen to admit that the door and bat were not in the same condition when they arrived as they were on the day of the shooting.
He said he didn’t know how many people had handled the door before he did, or where and how it was kept. He also admitted that there was one mark that was not on the door in March last year that was visible now.
He conceded that “something” must have happened to the door after he first received it.