Oscar trial: Watch stolen from scene

Comment on this story


Schoombie van Rensburg

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Former Boschkop police station commander Colonel Giliam van Rensburg gives evidence on day 10 of the murder trial of paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria - A stolen watch has been the focal point of testimony in the trial of Oscar Pistorius on Friday morning, with all fingers pointing towards investigators at the crime scene.

Meanwhile, a police officer's bungling by getting his own prints on the murder weapon was also revealed to the court.

On Thursday, defence advocate Barry Roux told the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that watches in a box had been stolen from the scene of the crime, implying officers had taken them.

On Friday, one of the first investigators on the scene told the court of the police's own investigation into the missing timepiece.

On Thursday, retired policeman Giliam van Rensburg told the court of how he was the first investigator on the scene less than an hour after Pistorius shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Van Rensburg, who commanded the Boschkop police station in Pretoria at the time, had arrived at Pistorius's complex where he found a paramedic who had declared Steenkamp dead. He saw Steenkamp's body covered in towels and black plastic bags, and found Pistorius in tears pacing in the kitchen.

He then spoke with estate manager Johan Stander and his daughter Clarice who had helped try and stop Steenkamp's bleeding.

Clarice told him how Pistorius had said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder and had shot her.

Pistorius allegedly asked Johan to take his gun so he could transport Steenkamp to the hospital. The estate manager said Pistorius should not take her and should rather call and wait for an ambulance.

Van Rensburg and then chief investigator Hilton Botha went upstairs to find the bloody bathroom and toilet cubicle where Steenkamp had been shot. Splinters, two cellphones and a cocked firearm littered the floor.

On Friday morning, Van Rensburg told the court he had checked the main bathroom's open window to check if there had been any forced entry.

He said he couldn't see how someone could have entered a window on the first floor.

He added that he saw human tissue on the floor along with large panels from the door where Pistorius had broken through with a cricket bat. The court was shown a photo of the toilet cubicle, the bowl covered in blood with more on the floor below.

Even what appeared to be a long, thin splinter of wood had managed to land inside the toilet.

But the court wasn't shown the photo described by Van Rensburg on the position of Steenkamp's body, and close-ups of her wounds.

A photo of Pistorius directly after the shooting showed him looking emotional. The athlete was without a shirt, in blood-stained grey shorts and blood spattered prosthetic legs.

Inside the kitchen, Van Rensburg told the court that he had read Pistorius his rights, and told the athlete he was not yet being arrested, just questioned.

He said there was still some information that needed to be followed up before Pistorius could be arrested.

He said only the Standers and Pistorius's brother Carl, who arrived later, had access to Pistorius at the home.

Van Rensburg said he wasn't sure if either of the Pistorius siblings had called a lawyer at the scene, but that he had later met the family lawyer, Kenny Oldwadge, at the scene.

Later, Steenkamp's body was removed, after crime scene photographers had completed their work.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked if anyone had access to the first floor besides investigators, and Van Rensburg said no.

Later, Pistorius's sister Aimee arrived at the home, requesting clothes for her brother, and an officer was sent upstairs.

Then the watches became the focus of testimony.

Van Rensburg said he had noticed them when he had first arrived upstairs on a chest of drawers in the main bedroom. He said eight watches were inside a box, and to any other person they would be tempting because they were expensive.

He had gone downstairs to get a photographer to take a photo of the box, and to keep an eye on them.

The blood smears on the lid meant this was a piece of evidence, and could be removed from the scene.

At a later stage, when Pistorius had been taken from the scene, the forensic team was busy on both floors. He proceeded to the main bedroom and found the team working.

He said he had other duties, such as dealing with the media, and he was informed that the forensic team had started working without him.

Later, when he spied the box, he saw the watch in the left bottom corner had gone missing.

A Warrant Officer Bennie van Staden told him that Pistorius's sister had asked for one of them, and the other seven were still in place. He was told the value of one of the watches.

“You see what I mean, we have to look after these watches,” said Van Rensburg.

When packing up to leave, Van Staden approached him to say another watch had gone missing. He ordered all officers to be body searched, and the bags searched, and then a sweep of the entire house. But they could not find the watch.

Van Rensburg personally opened a case docket of the theft, and handed it to the provincial commissioner's office.

When Van Rensburg visited the accused, he told Pistorius about the theft. He explained that if Pistorius found anything else missing, he must report it.

The new chief investigator, Captain Mike van Aardt, later ensured the remainder of the watches were returned after forensics was complete.

Van Rensburg handed them over to Pistorius personally.

But Van Rensburg said that no inventory of objects in the house had been written, only that which had been analysed.

The former colonel said that he had been one of the people in charge of access control to the scene, and barriers were placed around the house and garage.

Each person entering and exiting the scene was documented.

Van Rensburg then told the court how the integrity of the scene had been compromised. A ballistics expert had handled the gun found in the bathroom and cocked it - without wearing gloves. He then just said “sorry” about his misconduct, and put on some gloves. Van Rensburg said he was very angry about the incident.

After the investigation was complete, the home was sealed and the keys booked into the police registry.

Van Rensburg said that media outlets had contacted police offering upwards of R60 000 for photos of the crime scene - but especially the cubicle door that Pistorius had shot through.

At a later date, police reopened the crime scene to get the door which they knew was integral to the case.

Van Rensburg had organised large body bags to transport it. When investigators removed it, more panels came loose and he asked if his team could put it back together again. The response was that they would use screws.

He, as the station commander, had signed for the door, and it was kept in his office at Boschkop police station for security reasons. No one else but him had access to this office, and it had secure fences around the windows.

Even though it was meant to be taken from his office after the weekend of the incident, it was kept there until February 28.

[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.

     

Join us on

IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks

Business Directory