Barry Roux sits with his client Oscar Pistorius at the end of the day in court on Tuesday, March 17, 2014.   Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Barry Roux sits with his client Oscar Pistorius at the end of the day in court on Tuesday, March 17, 2014. Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Ballistics expert back on stand

By SHAIN GERMANER Time of article published Mar 19, 2014

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Pretoria - When Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp he was a mere 220cm away.

This was the evidence of Captain Chris Mangena, a police ballistics expert who testified in the Pistorius murder trial on Tuesday.

Armed with a tripod, a laser device and Pistorius’s measurements, Mangena traced the trajectory of the hail of bullets which killed Steenkamp.

According to his results, the four holes in the wood were all between 93cm and 104cm from the ground, corroborating Pistorius’s story he had been on his stumps when he fired at the intruder he claims he thought was behind the door.

Mangena was also able to determine Pistorius had fired from a slight downward angle, just five or six degrees.

When he told the court he had needed the post-mortem report to determine Steenkamp’s position inside the cramped toilet cubicle, her mother, June, looked distraught in the court gallery.

Comforted by the small selection of family, friends and ANC Women’s League members around her, she listened as Mangena described the gunshot wounds her daughter had sustained, and the bruises on her chest and back.

He had also analysed her bloody, torn shirt with a bullet hole in it.

The ballistics expert concluded one of the bullets had missed Steenkamp, and created a mark on the cubicle wall before ricocheting into another. But the other three had penetrated Steenkamp’s body.

Mangena was expected to continue his testimony on Wednesday when State Advocate Gerrie Nel continues to lead evidence.

Before Mangena took the stand, defence advocate Barry Roux criticised the conduct of the police and their handling of the crime scene.

Warrant Officer Bennie van Staden, the crime scene photographer at Pistorius’s home the night Steenkamp was killed, had been grilled a second day by Roux.

The officer had told the court that after being escorted upstairs to the shooting scene by then-investigator Hilton Botha, he had been left alone to photograph the scene.

Roux argued the time codes from Van Staden’s images, as well as those of another investigator, Colonel HS Motha, showed the pair had been in the bathroom shortly after 6am on the morning of the shooting.

But Van Staden denied this, as well as the accusations that vital evidence, including the firearm, two cellphones and cricket bat had been moved before police had properly recorded the scene.

The bat had moved slightly between two of Van Staden’s pictures, while the bath mat the gun had been lying on looked stretched out in one image, yet not in another.

Van Staden had been unable to explain why the bat, or certain items in the main bedroom appeared to have been moved, but suggested the bath mat had been moved because one of the cellphones recovered was directly underneath it.

It was also revealed Motha had later been removed from the scene as he had handled the firearm “making it safe” without gloves, and Van Staden had reprimanded him, asking him to leave.

But the mystery around the damage to the main bedroom door continued, as the court was told Van Staden had only photographed the 4mm hole and other damage to the door a day after the investigation began.

But neither the defence or the State has told the court what the significance could be.

Van Staden also revealed he and former witness Colonel Johan Vermeulen had been responsible for “selecting” the photos to be presented to the court on his tests of the bat against the bathroom door.

Pistorius had tried to break through the bathroom door on the night of the shooting and Vermeulen had said the angles at which marks had been made on the door suggested Pistorius had been on his stumps at that point – contradicting the athlete’s version of events.

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