Oscar cop hammered
The police detective investigating Reeva Steenkamp's death admits he missed key evidence - a spent bullet in the toilet bowl - and that he might have contaminated the crime scene.
In a day of fierce legal blows, the team defending Olympic hero Oscar Pistorius tried to unravel and unnerve the state's key witness, punching holes in his testimony with hard-hitting questions.
Last night, an officer who had contact with Pistorius, 26, at the Brooklyn police station, where he is being held, said the athlete had expressed confidence following yesterday's proceedings.
"He's convinced he'll be out by the weekend and back on the track before the end of the year."
Pistorius had appeared before Pretoria chief magistrate Desmond Nair on the second day of his bail hearing, which continues today.
The internationally renowned double-amputee athlete is in the dock for allegedly deliberately murdering his 29-year-old girlfriend, a law graduate and model, in the early hours of Valentine's Day.
He says he shot her by accident, thinking she was an intruder.
Steenkamp was shot in a hip, near her right ear and in an elbow while locked in the toilet of Pistorius's R5-million Pretoria East security complex home.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel yesterday outlined the case against Pistorius, saying two different neighbours had heard arguments for nearly an hour coming from his home before the shooting.
These were allegedly followed by screams, two gunshots, a 17-minute silence and then more shots.
A discrepancy the state had with Pistorius's version of the shooting was how three cartridges landed in the bathroom and one in the bathroom passage.
In his affidavit, read in court on Tuesday, Pistorius said he fired four shots into the toilet door, believing that an intruder was inside.
This was after he had rushed to the bathroom on his stumps to investigate a noise.
"We believe he was moving into the bathroom firing ... there was no escape for Steenkamp," the lead detective in the case, Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, testified yesterday. He said the trajectory of the bullets suggested Pistorius was, in fact, wearing his prosthetic limbs when he opened fire.
The state alleges that all the shots were fired from a height downwards through the door, towards the toilet, on which Steenkamp was sitting.
Leading Botha through his testimony, prosecutor Nel cast doubt on why, if Pistorius felt vulnerable on his stumps as claimed, he would have approached "the danger" in the bathroom.
"If I was scared and my girlfriend was with me, I would have tried to protect her first ... and if I didn't need to go towards the bathroom and could have gone straight out the room, I would have," said Botha.
Pistorius claims that, on realising it was Steenkamp he had shot, he phoned the estate's administrator and paramedics for help.
But according to the police, none of the four cellphones found in his home had been used that morning.
In fierce cross-examination, advocate Barry Roux tried to discredit Botha. He told the investigating officer there was a fifth cellphone on the premises - which Pistorius had used to call paramedics - but that the police did not ask his client for it.
"Instead of verifying information, you introduce untested evidence ... there is proof Oscar phoned Netcare and the guards, who heard him weeping. You know the testosterone (your word for steroids) was herbal.
"You contaminated the crime scene ... not intentionally ... but you forgot your protective shoe coverings.'' Botha conceded this.
Roux continued: "Our forensic experts found a 'spent bullet' in the toilet bowl, which you missed.
"Reeva's bladder was empty when she died, evidence consistent with claims she went to the toilet. It is significant ... the truth is, you couldn't find anything inconsistent with Pistorius's account or [that] indicates premeditated murder, correct? Surely a little measure of common sense would have been warranted, but you didn't think, did you?"
In response, Botha said the police were confident of their investigation and were awaiting final reports on ballistics, forensics and pathology matters, which would, along with crime-scene analysis documents, shore up their case.
Nel, redirecting Botha, suggested that Pistorius's affidavit provided more questions than answers. He said to the detective: "You have not been provided with all the evidence have you? There was a fifth cellphone ... but you do not have it do you? Is this not strange? Surely if his lawyers were as helpful as they claim you would have everything you require?"
Botha replied that he was battling to obtain evidence, including the "mysterious fifth cellphone".
"We found a holster, a safe with 38 .38 special unlicensed rounds of ammunition, four cellphones ... [on] none of which calls [had been] made to police, complex security guards or paramedics ... drugs believed to be steroids, syringes, needles and a cricket bat with blood splatters .
"We were suspicious ... on top of this there was a memory stick containing details of an overseas bank account on it, which his brother and lawyer took ... We are concerned Pistorius is a flight risk ... he has assets he has not declared ... an offshore bank account and a house in Italy," he said.
Botha told the court that, in 2009, he had questioned Pistorius at his home on a charge of assault, which was later dropped.
The athlete's uncle Arnold Pistorius told eNews Channel Africa the family was confident the truth would prevail.