Oscar cop grilled on extra photos

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MEDIA POOL

Police photographer Bennie van Staden testifies during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. He was assigned to take pictures of the murder scene last year. Picture: Daniel Born

Pretoria - The defence in the Oscar Pistorius trial has spent Tuesday morning trying to show that the crime scene was anything but controlled.

Earlier, police photographer Warrant Officer Barend Van Staden was questioned about his hundreds of photos of the scene.

Images were shown to the court that proved key evidence had been moved during the time period where Van Staden was meant to be alone, recording an “untouched” scene.

Two photos of the bathroom mat showed the gun found on the bathroom floor had changed position.

Yet another photo was then also presented to the court which Roux said showed the gun had been moved yet again. Roux said that the new photo had not been taken by Van Staden, but asked if Van Staden was sure he was the only one on the scene.

Van Staden said he was alone, “as far as (he) could remember”.

Roux then asked about Van Staden's commander who had arrived at the scene, and whether he was present during the initial photographic investigation.

Roux asked about another investigator, Colonel Motha from the ballistics section who may have been upstairs when Van Staden was recording the scene.

Van Staden said these SAPS members could have gone upstairs but not while Van Staden was still working.

The defence then revealed the State had provided photos of the scene taken by this colonel at 5.56am, in the middle of Van Staden's initial investigation.

Van Staden said he didn't have access to these photos and thus could not comment.

Roux said there was an overlap in the times the photos were taken in both the bedroom and bathroom.

According to Roux, Van Staden had only gone into the bathroom at 6.05am, almost 10 minutes after the colonel's photograph was taken.

Van Staden admitted that some of the times correlated.

But Roux said that Van Staden had mixed up some of the photos, even though the time stamps appear to be in sequence.

Some of the album's images jump from Reeva Steenkamp's body to photos of the kitchen door. But Roux went through the time stamps to determine Van Staden's journey through the house.

Van Staden appeared to be in the bathroom between 6.05 and 6.10am.

But because the photos weren't filed in chronological order, Roux said he thought their numbering was “strange”.

But Motha's image time codes showed that he was on the balcony of the main bedroom while Van Staden was in the bathroom passage.

A few minutes later Van Staden was in the bathroom, while Motha was supposedly there as well.

But Van Staden was unable to answer, insisting he didn't see Motha, but admitting the bathroom was only about four by five metres.

Another image also showed a police officer in the bathroom while Van Staden was taking photos of the outside of the house at 6.31am, but Van Staden could not identify him.

The photographer was asked what he brought up with him upstairs when he first arrived.

He said it was most likely just his camera, notebook and camera bag.

He also added that former chief investigator Hilton Botha first took him upstairs to show the scene before he began his photo work, but that he was alone after that.

Roux then presented a photo of the main bedroom door that had a 5mm hole in it, and how the image had only been taken a day later.

Van Staden said he noticed it when with Botha, but had only recorded it the following day. He said he was wary that it could not be moved and photographed it the next day when he deemed it necessary.

But Roux said the door could still have been tampered with, and that Van Staden should have recorded it earlier.

Motha was later removed from the scene because he had handled the firearm “making it safe”. Van Staden had reprimanded him and asked him to leave. But Roux made it obvious to the court that Van Staden was a lower rank than Motha.

Other items were also moved in the bedroom, including the fans Pistorius claims to have collected just before the shooting.

The flip-flops next to Steenkamp's side of the bed were also moved three times.

Van Staden said he also moved the overnight bag next to the bed.

Roux asked why these movements weren't noted properly by Van Staden, who had only sometimes recorded images before and after the objects were moved.

Roux then asked about why Van Staden had taken a limited shot of the box of watches in Pistorius's room, two of which were stolen after the investigation.

The shot did not show all eight of the watches, and Roux asked why Van Staden had not taken a wider shot.

But the photographer had a wider shot in his album.

Van Staden said he was unsure when the watches were taken, but some time between after he had taken the photo of the box.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star


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