By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia
PRETORIA, South Africa: Photographs of Oscar Pistorius’ cocked 9 mm pistol lying on a mat on the blood-stained bathroom floor and the blood splatter on walls and furniture in his house were shown at the double-amputee Olympian’s murder trial Thursday, building a detailed picture of the scene where he killed Reeva Steenkamp.
One of the first two police officers at the house to investigate the shooting testified that he followed a “trail of blood” when he got there.
Former police colonel G.S. van Rensburg said he traced spots and bigger blood marks downstairs where Steenkamp lay dead from three gunshot wounds and followed them across the floor, up the staircase, through a small lounge area and then into Pistorius’ bedroom. Ultimately, van Rensburg reached the bathroom where the world-famous athlete shot his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.
There, van Rensburg said he found Pistorius’ gun, hammer back and the safety off, on a mat. There were also spent bullet casings, cellphones and a blood-soaked towel on the bathroom floor, and the cricket bat Pistorius says he used to break down the toilet door to get to Steenkamp. In the toilet cubicle, there was a darker pool of blood and the wooden splinters where the locked door, through which Pistorius shot the model, had been bashed through.
Pistorius, 27, faces a possible life sentence if convicted of murder. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him and says he shot the 29-year-old Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was a dangerous intruder in the tiny toilet cubicle in a bathroom of his Pretoria villa. Prosecutors charge that he intentionally killed her.
Details in the photos were highlighted by the prosecution as part of its case against Pistorius. One was a gun holster on a table by the side of the bed where Pistorius says Steenkamp, and not him, was sleeping that night. The size of the bedroom suggested Pistorius had to walk close to where he says he thought Steenkamp was still sleeping to get to the bathroom. In the bathroom, the gun rested on a toweling mat that was clean and out of kilter with the blood stains around it, head prosecutor Gerrie Nel noted.
As van Rensburg, who resigned from the police force last year, was led through each photograph by Nel, Pistorius mainly kept his head down in court and appeared to avoid looking at the TV monitors where the images were shown. The screen next to Pistorius was switched off before the exhibit.
Van Rensburg confirmed that the photos reflected accurately how he found the scene when he got there just before 4 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2013 — about 30 to 40 minutes after prosecutors say Pistorius shot Steenkamp.
The photos provided vivid images. Blood stains from the severe wounds he inflicted on his girlfriend were splattered on a white wall close to a group of glittering trophies in the multiple Paralympic champion’s home.
Upstairs, there was a black air gun rifle and a blue baseball bat near the door to Pistorius’ bedroom. Pictures of the bedroom showed a cabinet with multiple sets of slick sunglasses and a box of expensive-looking watches as well as blood stains on the carpets and even across a mirror on the watch box.
The photos in the bathroom showed that tiles had come off the wall and were on the floor and a metal panel had been damaged, apparently after being hit by a hard object. Prosecutors allege Pistorius killed Steenkamp after an argument.
Van Rensburg also described how, on arriving at Pistorius’ house, he saw Steenkamp’s body near the entrance downstairs covered in towels and plastic bags that the daughter of the estate manager said she had used, with assistance from Pistorius, to try and stop the bleeding. Administrator Johan Stander is the first person Pistorius says he called after the shooting.
A tearful Pistorius was “emotional” and pacing in the kitchen, van Rensburg said. The policeman said he asked the athlete what had happened, but he didn’t answer. Van Rensburg said he asked Pistorius to stay in one area of the kitchen, which he did.
Police investigator Hilton Botha also arrived at the home, where bloodstains were visible downstairs on the floor, armchairs, a rug and a wall near the kitchen, according to van Rensburg, who said that soon after he arrived a female paramedic informed him Steenkamp was dead.
“We then followed the trail of blood up the stairs,” van Rensburg said.
Associated Press writer Torchia reported from Johannesburg.