5569 Greg Marinovich hosts an exhibition and auction of his friend and fellow photographer Joao Silva's photographs. Joao Silva recently lost the lower part of both his legs when he stepped on a landmine whilst covering the war in Afghanistan for the New York Times. Etana House, Houghton, Johannesburg. 241110 - Picture: Jennifer Bruce

South African special police shot dead strikers at Lonmin's Marikana mine “in cold blood”, a Pullitzer Prize-winning photographer alleged Thursday after the violence which killed 44.

“Heavily armed police hunted down and killed the miners in cold blood,” wrote South African photographer Greg Marinovich on the Daily Maverick news website.

Police opened fire on striking workers at the mine on August 16, killing 34 and injuring 78 after an escalating stand-off between rival unions had already left 10 dead, including two police officers.

Television cameras screened the shooting live, which police afterwards justified as self-defence.

But most of the dead were shot away from blaring cameras, said Marinovich.

“A minority were killed in the filmed event where police claim they acted in self-defence. The rest was murder on a massive scale.”

Photographs with the article showed the letter “N” painted by police forensic experts on a rock crevice 300 meters (328 yards) behind the hill where the shooting was filmed.

The letter indicates corpse number 14 in forensic investigation.

“Approaching N from all possible angles, observing the local geography, it is clear that to shoot N, the shooter would have to be close,” said Marinovich.

“After having spent days here at the bloody massacre site, it does not take too much imagination for me to believe that N might have begged for his life on that winter afternoon.”

“J and H died alongside each other. They, too, had no route of escape and had to have been shot at close range,” he added.

An eyewitness also told the photographer armoured police trucks had driven over some strikers.

President Jacob Zuma last week appointed a judicial commission of inquiry into the events on the day, while police are also conducting an independent investigation.

Police watchdog spokesman Moses Dlamini declined to comment on the Thursday report.

“I can't comment until I've read the article and spoken to investigators,” he told AFP.

The Star newspaper on Monday reported most of the dead were shot in the back while fleeing.

Marinovich won the Pullitzer Prize in 1991 for his coverage of violence in South Africa's townships at the end of apartheid. His story as part of the “Bang Bang Club”, four photographers who covered the conflicts, was told in a book and Hollywood film. - AFP