By John Mkhize
PRETORIA (Reuters) – Oscar Pistorius was on his stumps when he smashed down a locked toilet door to reach his shot girlfriend, a South African police forensic expert said on Wednesday, countering the Paralympic star’s assertion he was wearing his prosthetic legs at the time.
Wielding the cricket bat in his hands, police colonel Johannes Vermuelen knelt down before swinging it at the wooden door in a court reconstruction to show the angle of the marks and to suggest they could only have been made by someone much shorter than him.
The 27-year-old double amputee is charged with the murder of model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot through the locked toilet door on Valentine’s Day last year.
Prosecutors want to prove that it was premeditated killing, but Pistorius says he was defending himself from what he thought was an intruder who had broken into his gated-community home in the capital of the crime-ridden country.
At his bail hearing last year, Pistorius justified shooting because of the extreme vulnerability he felt because of his disability. However, in his affidavit he stated that he had put on his prostheses before smashing down the door.
“The marks on the door are actually consistent with him not having his legs on and I suspect they must be similar to the height that he was when he fired the shots,” he told the court.
Defense advocate Barry Roux countered by suggesting that even with his legs on, Pistorius would not be swinging a bat at the same height as an able-bodied person.
Close-up photographs of the damaged door were shown in court, as well as scuffs on the autographed cricket bat, prompting a Tweet from former South African test cricketer Herschelle Gibbs: ”Just saw my signature on the bat used by the accused in Oscar trial…lol”.
Pistorius’ lower limbs were amputated as a baby but he overcame the disability to become the “fastest man on no legs”, winning gold medals at both the Beijing and London Paralympics.
With good looks and an easy smile, he was a sponsors’ dream, but since Steenkamp’s killing the accounts of his behavior have revealed a dark side to his carefully groomed media persona.
Prosecutors are trying to show Pistorius loved the fast life, with an unhealthy obsession for guns.
Darren Fresco, a friend, earlier told the court Pistorius had been driving at above 200 kph when the pair and one of the athlete’s ex-girlfriends were travelling to a resort town south of Johannesburg in September 2012.
Pistorius’ gun lay between his legs and not in a holster when the three drove back later that day, Fresco said.
Both Fresco and Samantha Taylor, the woman Pistorius left for Steenkamp, have testified that the athlete shot through the car’s sunroof in anger when a policeman emptied the magazine of Pistorius’ firearm, after they were pulled over for speeding.
(Writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Angus MacSwan)