Expert testifies on Reeva’s wounds

Comment on this story
dixon apr 16 SAPA Forensic expert Roger Dixon testifies at the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday. Picture: Werner Beukes

Pretoria - The way in which Reeva Steenkamp was standing in Oscar Pistorius's toilet cubicle has been under debate in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning.

Pistorius is on trial for the murder of Steenkamp. He shot her dead through the locked toilet door of his home on Valentine's Day last year, apparently thinking she was an intruder.

Returning to the stand was Roger Dixon, a forensic geologist, who analysed the lighting conditions at Pistorius's home as well as the door the athlete shot through on the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Defence advocate Barry Roux asked Dixon to construct a diagram showing both the bruises on Steenkamp's body and the bullet holes in the door.

Dixon said this showed the direction of the bullet that ricocheted off the toilet wall.

He said the bullet had impacted the wall sideways while still reasonably intact, and not head-on.

He said that the height of the bruises on Steenkamp's back meant it was unlikely caused by the bullet or its fragments.

On Tuesday, Dixon theorised that the bruises were caused by the magazine rack inside the cubicle.

The State's forensic expert, police Captain Chris Mangena, believed that the magazine rack had propped Steenkamp up after she fell backwards after she was hit by the first bullet.

Her sitting up meant she would have been in the line of fire for the other shots. But Dixon's testimony suggested she hit the rack on her way down, creating the bruises, rather than being propped up by it.

Dixon also said that if Steenkamp was wearing a top, the lack of holes in it at the back meant the bullet couldn't have created the bruises.

He also described Steenkamp's wounds from the other bullets, and said these shots were also not responsible for the bruises according to his analysis.

As these wounds were described, Pistorius audibly retched again as he sat cowered in the dock.

Roux said Mangena's evidence was that the first bullet fired had made contact with Steenkamp's hip, and Dixon agreed.

But Dixon did not agree with Mangena's theory that Steenkamp was facing the door, as the bullet had most likely been coming through the door at an angle.

He said Steenkamp's did not suffer a round, concentric wound that would have occurred if she had been facing the door.

Dixon said Steenkamp was standing close to the door at an angle with her arm out in front of her torso.

Her arm had also been marked by the splinters of door that came as secondary projectiles, followed by another bullet creating the major wound.

After the first bullet hit, Dixon said he believed Steenkamp had began to fall, and the next bullet at her arm pushed her back even further as she fell.

The next bullet may have hit Steenkamp's hand, going through the webbing and hitting the wall behind her.

By this point, Steenkamp's head was already lowering as she fell, and she was in the line of fire for the final bullet to hit it.

This version also fit with Pistorius's claim that he fired all four bullets in rapid succession.

On Tuesday, the defence played a clip of Dixon testing the noise of a cricket bat hitting the door, and recorded the sound from 60m and 180m where Pistorius's neighbours were on the night of the shooting.

The audio sample sounded similar to the sound of gunshots.

Again on Wednesay morning, Roux played an audio sample of the door being hit in rapid succession, as Pistorius claimed he had hit the door.

Next he played the sound of a gun being fired at the door from 60m. The sound of these shots was louder and slightly clearer than the cricket bat.

The defence has argued that Pistorius's neighbours were confusing these sounds when they testified and indicated that the athlete's version that he fired at the door and then hit it with the bat, was incorrect.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began his cross-examination by asking about Dixon's credentials and analytical method.

Nel said Dixon had not taken the court through the processes he'd gone through to come to his conclusions.

“What I've testified on now, that information was gained from reports by other expert witnesses,” said Dixon, who added his own analysis to reconstruct the scene and order of events.

Dixon said he had experience analysing fingerprints, footprints and other marks for the SAPS.

Nel also asked why Dixon had been brought to testify about the sounds of the cricket bat and the gun, despite not being a sound expert. Dixon said his expertise was to reconstruct the situation of the night of the shooting, and that he hadn't been part of the analysis of the sounds.

Dixon said he was accompanied by ballistics experts when conducting this test.

Nel then moved onto Dixon's analysis of the lighting conditions at Pistorius's home. On Tuesday, Dixon said when the curtains are drawn on a moonless night, the bedroom was pitch black.

Dixon said he had simply used his eyes to make his determination.

The expert also clarified the fibres found on the door were examined under a microscope to determine that they were part of Pistorius's sock. This showed the athlete had tried to kick down the door with his prosthetic legs.

But he said he'd never examined the socks themselves closely, but had seen pictures of them.

Nel suggested that because the expert had only seen images of the socks, he had no way of making a scientific finding around them.

The prosecutor then asked if Dixon was a blood spatter analyst, and he replied he had received no formal training in this field.

Nel said Dixon indicated a finding of how a door panel had been in contact with blood.

Nel said that if Dixon was employed at the forensic science laboratory, he would have to undergo many proficiency tests per year as an expert. But because Dixon no longer works for them, he said he had not been subject to these since 2011 or 2012.

On Tuesday, Dixon said the marks on the door were created by a cricket bat, and Nel asked if he had physically matched Pistorius's bat to the door.

Dixon said the grooves and shape of the bat, which he had held up against the door, meant this could be inferred.

Nel added that Dixon had failed to meet with the State's forensic experts. Dixon said he'd read their reports to come to his findings.

The prosecutor then said that Dixon had failed to draft a report on all of his testimony.

Dixon said he had written multiple reports for the defence.

Earlier, Judge Thokozile Masipa granted an application for a postponement of the case until May 5, as it had encroached on other matters needing attention from some of the prosecution team.

Judge Masipa said the progression of the case was indicated by record of the trial being more than 2 000 pages long. She also said a postponement would not prejudice Pistorius, especially considering he was out on bail.

[email protected]

The Star

Click here for IOL’s live blog about the Oscar trial.



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.