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Oscar Pistorius trial: contradictions mount as athlete faces fifth day of cross-examination

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Oscar Pistorius trial: live coverage

Watch a live feed from the courtroom in Pretoria where paralympian Oscar Pistorius is on trial accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

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Pistorius looks utterly exhausted as he hugs his sister and brother closely, before going to talk with his lawyers.

Eyes are sunken in his head and he looks sweaty and tired. No doubt the past few days have been extremely difficult.

As it is now 3pm, we adjourn. Another extraordinary day, and tomorrow is day 24.

Back at 9.30am, when Judge Masipa will either grant or reject application by both parties to adjourn on Thursday for two weeks.

That would mean case resumes on May 5.

Mr Dixon says the size of bullet core retrieved from the toilet bowl itself is "inconsistent with having come from one of the bullets that went into the body".

On Captain Mangena’s evidence that Ms Steenkamp was sitting on the magazine rack, witness says: "I can’t see it happening."

Roux brings up police ballistic expert Captain Mangena's evidence. They want to discredit that.

He says Ms Steenkmap was sitting on the rack for the last two shots.

Well, even on day 23, we see something we haven't yet.

The magazine rack has been brought into the court, and passed over to the witness. It now sits atop the desk in the witness box, three metres from the toilet door, still centre stage in court.

Mr Roux hands Pistorius a photograph he does not wish to show on the screens "for obvious reasons". It is a rather graphic photo of Ms Steenkamp, showing her wounds.

The pictures we've seen on other days, of the bullet wounds on Reeva's back, are back up on the screen. Defence says they were caused by magazine rack, but state's pathologist says by ricocheting from bullet that did not strike her.

Pistorius has his head down, hands over eyes and thumbs in ears.

Dixon suggests Reeva must have been within 20cm of the door when Pistorius shot her, judging by the arm splinters around wounds. State claims she fell back almost a metre.

Pistorius has put his hands over his ears again and is bending forward - as details of wood splinters are talked about.

So true:

Dixon: One of the shot prints is over a bullet hole - whatever evidence was there has been compromised.

He is talking about the prints found on the door after it was in a police chief's office for a week.

"Most unprofessional" - that's how Dixon has described police walking through crime scene.

He goes on to explain how to minimise compromising the scene - something the Pistorius investigators did not do.

Expert explaining angle of bullets and the splinters of the wood after bullets went through door.

Dixon: "Looking at the bullet exit hole - the splinters are larger on the left as opposed to the right of the holes.

Dixon adds that he couldn't hit the door hard enough with the cricket bat to make the marks Pistorius did.

Now onto image of cricket bat "tip" with a blood smear and blood spots on it.

The defence forensic expert says the blow from the cricket bat would have made the tiles come off the wall.

Dixon says all marks on the door are similar and share same features, all "in my interpretation, cricket bat marks".

 

We return to the white tufts - Dixon says they are unlikely to have ended up there with a mere "stumbling" into it as the state's witness Vermeulen asserted.

He also says the varnish on the soles ofthe prosthesis must mean he kicked door very hard.

We resume with Dixon, the defence's expert on all things door/noise.

We take the lunch break.

Fair to say the evidence following Pistorius' testimony is dull by comparison. Very crucial though, and defence will hammering away at the forensic details.

Dixon agrees with evidence of state's expert Vermeulen on this point: the cricket bat hit door AFTER gunshots.

On an analysis of the door, Dixon says white fibres found there are consistent with this fibre is the white socks worn over Pistorius' prosthesis.

Most reporters are in agreement - while we are no experts, we would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two.

The court is played the sounds, and must be said they sound remarkably similar.

Dixon says they did the bullet tests on a shooting range at night to try to replicate conditions.

One recording station was at 60m, other at 120m.

Brief moment of levity as the assistant's computer blares another noise.

Ahhh, technical difficulties. Can't make it work. "I'll come back to it," says Roux.

They all want the two week adjournment, so he's mindful not to waste any court time.

Mr Roux says he is going to play the sound recorded by this demonstration. As they get it ready, Pistorius leans forward and puts fingers in his ears.

Dixon says he took a duplicate door from another room in the house and "did tests in which we hit the door as well as fired bullets through it in order to replicate the effects that would arise when it is hit, damaged, abused in the fashion which is evidence on the door."

"I hit the door with the cricket bat ... it takes a lot of force to break that door."

Dixon now turns to the toilet door, and the blows to it.

He says there were only three blows to door with cricket bat: upper right hand corner damaged by bat.

Dixon points out if your eyes were exposed to light, like closing the curtains, the would take time to readjust to darkness.

He says if toilet door is open, light from the bathroom enter cubicle and light can be seen from both windows.

Defence is looking to challenge neighbor Dr. Stipp's evidence with this expert, Dixon.

Dixon also says he went to the home belonging to the home belonging to neighbours Dr Johan Stipp. 

Says a new building now obscures view from Stipp's house to Pistorius'.

A night time photo is shown of Stipps small bedroom balcony from street at night.

He says the morning of the shooting was a "moonless night".

Dixon tells the court he went back to house last night.

With the curtain closed, two tiny light-switch lights, CD player on, moon in sky. Still was very dark in Pistorius' room.

He says the CD player gives off just a little bit of light. With your back to it, you wouldn't see anything.

Also confirms the toilet light was not working.

Dixon says he was asked to examine the lighting in Pistorius' bedroom. Says to test the level of darkness he closed curtain, turned all lights off.

He says with all lights off includ electronic equipment, you could see nothing at all in bedroom "not even hand in front of face".

Back underway. Mr Roux calls Roger Dixon, former forensic geologist with South African Police Service, is now on the witness stand.

He was used to be Col Vermeulen's boss.

He is running through his resume...

Extraordinarily, Pistorius' evidence has now finished.

He makes his way back to his seat in the dock, where he is once again approached by family members including sister Aimee.

He blows his nose and gathers in a huddle with defence.

Mr Roux requests half an hour to get the paperwork he needs to call next witness; says was caught off guard and thought he wouldn't need to do that until lunchtime.

Roux has now finished his re-examination. Incredibly brief.

Just two quick questions from one of Judge Masipa's assessors:

Q: Could Reeva Steenkamp activate and reactivate the alarm?

Pistorius: I’m not sure if she knew how to ... but she could if she had the remote.

Q: Was the light in the toilet working or not?

A: It wasn’t working my lady.

 

Mr Roux now tenders the Valentine's Day card Reeva left for Pistorius the night before she was killed.

The athlete struggles with his emotions again as he says the envelope had "Ozzy" written on the front.

Inside, Ms Steenkamp had written: "I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you."

Pistorius: She signed her name and put some kisses.

Roux scrolling quickly through issues raised in cross-examination.

Regarding his bail affidavit, he says he made it without access to any of the statement's in the state's case. Mentions Hilton Botha, the disgraced original officer in charge as a reminder about the claims of a dodgy police investigation.

Now see a picture of the jeans, and the duvet, as taken by the crime scene photographer. Pistorius says in one photograph the jeans are inside out, in another they're not.

Nel has objected to leading questions as Roux tries to resurrect the defence of "self-defence" by showing Pistorius was not acting involuntarily.

Roux asks about Pistorius' claim his gun fired accidentally.

Pistorius: The situation as a whole, it wasn't meant to be.

Roux: But you pulled the trigger?

Pistrious: I pulled the trigger.

Mr Roux resumes. He will be trying to clarify a number of issues.

Mr Roux has had meetings with his client and team, and will begin his re-examination shortly.

Rules of re-examination are quite strict - he cannot introduce any new material, can only revisit things already said.

Update on June Steenkamp - apparently she is sick today, that's why she is not at court.

Standing in the courtroom, Pistorius can talk to his lawyers for the first time in almost a week. Might be quite an awkward conversation, given how many times he blamed them for missteps during his cross-examination.

He is also warmly embraced by his uncle Arnold. Lots of back-slapping and support. They have avoided him - in court, at least - for much of the past week.

While under cross-examination, no witness is allowed to confer with the counsel.

Mr Roux asks for a short adjournment, Judge Masipa wraps it into morning tea break.

As she has done almost every time there is a break in proceedings, Pistorius' sister Aimee rushes to her brother's side to hug him.

Q: Afterwards you were overcome by what you had done.

A: That's true...

Q: Because you intended to kil her.

A: That's not true.

And after four days of cross-examination, Mr Nel sits down.

Mr Nel is now putting together the whole state's case, I think he is almost finished.

Q: "You shot four shots through that door, while knowing she was standing behind that door.

A: It's not true my lady.

Q: you know because she was talking.

A: It's not true.

Q: She locked herself in the toilet, you armed yourself with the "sole purpose of shooting her dead" and that's when you did it.

A: It's not true.

Q: I'm putting to you that there were only two people in the house that night. You killed Reeva and you're the only person who can give a version of what happened that night. Do you agree?

A: I do, my lady.

Q: I'm putting to you Mr P that it's so improbable it cannot be possibly true.

A: It is true my lady.

Q: Reeva ate within three hours of you having shot her dead.

A: It's not true my lady... I can't possibly believe she has eaten.

We return to the fact that Pistorius said he had himself to blame for taking Reeva's live.

Q: Who should we blame for the fact that you shot her? Who should we blame? Should we blame Reeva?

A: No my lady.

Q: She never told you she was going to the toilet, we could blame it on her?

A: No my lady.

Q: Should we blame the government? You must blame somebody.

A: I thought there was someone coming out of the toilet to attack me.

Photo close-up shows that there is indeed blood on the magazine rack. The one leg in the pool of blood shows no movement.

Pistorius dogmatically says the rack wasn't there, because that's where Reeva was.

Mr Nel resumes: "What I'm going to try and show you is there isn't any blood on the magazine rack and the rack hasn't moved."

He reminds Pistorius that his own legal team's pathologist/expert says the marks on Ms Steenkmap's back were caused by the magazine rack - not, as the state alleges, by the ricocheting bullet from the shot that missed her.

But you testified that the rack was in the far right of the cubicle - two separate versions," Mr Nel submits.

Pistorius disagrees - when Reeva fell she might have bumped and moved the rack.

Mr Nel says he's getting lots of notes from his legal team and asks for five minutes to confer with them.

Suspect he's getting close to the end of his examination in chief. As is often the case as cross-examination concludes, expect there to be a big finish.

Nel will likely put the whole state case to him in graphic detail - making it sound as compelling as possible - and highlight the implausibility of Pistorius' version.

Nel says everything from the time Pistorius picked Ms Steenkamp up and carried her downstairs, is not in dispute. It's what happens prior to that, that doesn't add up."

The prosecutor returns to a picture showing the the magazine rack leg in a pool of blood - it doesn't appear that it moved, he submits.

"That's correct, my lady", Pistorius replies.

Pistorius says he carried her downstairs and when he got there he was met by estate manager Stander and her daughter, who said "Ozzy put her down". He says he beseeched them to help take Reeva to hospital.

Pistorius says he "talked to her ... crying 'Baby please hold on.' I was talking to her all the time....Reeva..I was praying for her."

The athlete says he doesn't remember a lot of what happened immediately afterward.

Nel asking about him telling security 'everything is fine', says it was a "mistake" to phone him. That's how prosecution explains that when the security guard Baba phoned back, Pistorius told him "everything is fine".

Pistorius rejects the assessment, says it "doesn't make sense".

 

Nel: "You would expect you then to scream at Reeva. Talk to her."

Pistorius: "No, I was broken, I was overcome with sadness."

Nel says now that he's found Reeva, would he not have been screaming his loudest, his most upset?

"I don't understand what the purpose of screaming is," says he was overcome with sadness at what had happened.

Says when he screamed it was the "state of panic, the not knowing ... I wouldn't have screamed out".

 

We now move onto the phones.

Pistorius says it's possible he put the phone where it is, partially under towel, so the cover came off. But says he can't be sure because police have moved things and "tampered" with the scene.

Then he heard her breathing so "I tried to get her up and out of the toilet." He struggled, as he was on his stumps.

"I placed her halfway between the toilet and the bathroom and tried to pick her up but couldn't."

He then saw her phone, tried to use it to call for help but it had a passcode on it so couldn't get into it, so ran to the bedroom to get his phone.

Pistorius closes his eyes as computer operator scrolls through the pictures. His sister Aimee is in tears watching her brother's testimony.

Pistorius says the rack wasn't where it is depicted in the picture - recalls it being to the far right of the picture. That's another fresh detail we haven't heard before.

Crying openly now but still composed, as he describes how he "crouched over" his girlfriend, checked to see if she was breathing or had a pulse. Didn't think she did so pulled her onto him in a bid to try and get her out.

Pistorius now describes what happened when he broke the door, reaching inside and getting key from the floor.

"I ripped off a bigger panel (of the door) and tried to get in."

Nel says it's "important" he explains Ms Steenkamp's position when he first got into the cubicle.

"She was (pause) sitting on the floor to the right of the toilet..(cries) with her right arm on top of toilet bowl..."

He is crying as he looks at a photograph of the blood-soaked toilet cubicle.

Points at the screen, where there's "a lot of blood on the seat".

Nel wants Pistorius to do another demonstration of how he struck the door with the cricket bat.

He has asked cricket-bat-door-expert Colonel Vermeulen to assist, by putting the bat first in the position in the door HE claims it was struck at, and gets Pistorius to hold the bat's handle in that position.

Pistorius: I was screaming. I remember one of the shots hit the frame of the door, it shocked my hands.

Nel asks why if he was doing everything possible to get into the door once he believed he had shot Reeva, why he didn't put his gun down?

Pistorius: I don't know, my lady.

He says he was "crying out more desperate", crying out "Reeva, Reeva".

Interestingly, June Steenkamp is not in court today. Wonder if that's because she's been tipped off about a dramatic/graphic climax, like the way Nel started his questioning?

Nel: It's because of what happened int hat room. You had an argument she wanted to leave ... that's the only reason they would be in that state".

Pistorius says not.

Nel returns to the jeans, says the fact they are inside out would indicate Ms Steenkamp took them off quickly.

Pistorius now says Reeva was already in her pyjamas when he arrived home, so he doesn't know why the jeans were on the floor.

 

Q: You see, that's your problem Mr Pistorius - you are thinking of the version, you're not answering the question.

A: It's not true my lady.

Q: It's getting more and more improbable and you're tailoring as you go.

A: It's not true, my lady.

Nel again compares previous versions, reading parts of Pistorius' bail application affidavit, and points to differences in versions. There's no mention of "wood moving" sound.

Q: WHy would you fire when you heard the magazine rack?

A: I didn't have time to interpret that.

Q: Why would you fire at the magazine rack?

A: I thought it was the door opening ... it could only have been the magazine rack in retrospect.

 

It's a point we haven't yet heard: the prosecution says there is simply enough time for Reeva to open window in the bathroom, go to the toilet, close and lock the door before Pistorius entered with his gun on his version of events.

Compelling argument - Pistorius doesn't agree.

Mr Nel resumes his cross examination with a good point: "on your version, the deceased must have opened the bathroom window."

Pistorius agrees: "yes, before she went to the toilet."

Nel goes on: if his version is true, Reeva would have had to have time to "void her bladder" AND get dressed BEFORE shutting the door.

Pistorius: That's correct.

Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux does not object to the adjournment, and he says the defence case will wrap within a couple of weeks after thatn.

Judge Masipa says she wants to think about it, and will give decision tomorrow.

Mr Nel is making an application to adjourn the case later this week for a slightly extended period because the prosecutors need to turn their attention to the rest of their case load. He says the case has gone way over the expected period and says his junior counsel has a matter she must attend in court in next week.

He says he will today conclude his cross-examination, and asks the case resume on May 5.

As he concluded yesterday, Mr Nel told the court he would this morning embark on a series of questions about "the toilet". We finished about five minutes early because the prosecutor said he did not wish to start and then have to repeat them in the morning.

So that's where we'll resume, I suppose.

Judge Masipa arriving now...

As ever, much talk this morning about how much longer state prosecutor Gerrie Nel's cross-examination can go on. Today is the fifth day he has questioned Pistorius - quite a long time by any court standards, I would have thought. But Mr Nel once cross-examined a police chief accused of fraud for eight days, so suppose anything is possible!

Good morning from Pretoria, where we are in readiness for day 23 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.
The Blade Runner has arrived in court.