Police photographs of a bare-chested Oscar Pistorius standing in his garage on blood-stained prosthetic legs and wearing shorts covered in blood, taken shortly after the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend, were shown to the court at his murder trial Friday.
Prosecutors displayed two photos on TV monitors in the courtroom, with the first of the muscled double-amputee Olympic athlete standing facing a camera. There are blood stains up to the knees of his limbs and his shorts are also bloodied, but his naked chest appears to be clean of blood.
A second photograph of Pistorius from the waist up and from the left side also shows blood on his shorts and parts of his body, with a tattoo visible on his back.
The photographs were taken in Pistorius’s Pretoria home soon after the athlete killed Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, a former policeman testified. Pistorius says he carried Steenkamp downstairs to try to save her after mistakenly shooting her in his bathroom.
Former police Col. G.S. van Rensburg described the early part of the investigation after he arrived at the scene around 30 to 40 minutes after prosecutors say Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013.
The prosecution says Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp in the upstairs bathroom after a loud argument and then tried to cover it up by saying he thought the 29-year-old model was a dangerous intruder.
Pistorius, 27, maintains the killing was an accident and has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
A Very Emotional Suspect
Van Rensburg, the former commander at a police station close to Pistorius’s home, said he didn’t arrest Pistorius immediately, but did warn him to remain at the house.
“I told him I observed him as a suspect at that stage,” van Rensburg said. “I warned him of his rights … I requested him to remain present at all times at the scene.”
Van Rensburg said Pistorius was earlier “very emotional,” and that the runner’s brother and sister, Carl and Aimee, and a lawyer later arrived at the house.
A close-up photograph of the toilet inside the cubicle where Steenkamp was shot three times, once in the head, was also displayed. It showed an extensive blood smear on the rim, as well as thick blood streaks in the bowl, where the water was also dark with blood.
Van Rensburg said he recognized the toilet door through which Pistorius shot as the “most valuable” piece of evidence, and that it was important to secure it, particularly since he had heard media were willing to pay up to $5,500 for a photo of it.
The toilet door was placed in a plastic “body bag” and transported to a police station, where van Rensburg said he stored it in his office because it was too big to fit in an area normally reserved for evidence from crime scenes.
Questions About the Investigation
The police investigation has been heavily criticized by Pistorius’s defense lawyer, Barry Roux.
Roux particularly questioned the conduct of former investigating officer Hilton Botha, who was thrown off the case last year and resigned from the police force.
Roux repeatedly asked van Rensburg what Botha was doing at the scene during different parts of the investigation. Botha admitted last year that he didn’t wear proper forensic clothing and shoe covers when he examined parts of the scene, and Pistorius’s team believes the police disturbed evidence and may have tampered with it.
“You did not disturb anything in the bathroom? You did not see Mr. Hilton Botha disturb anything in the bathroom?” Roux asked van Rensburg.
“Were you acutely aware that you should not disturb the scene? Did you have that awareness? And what was Mr. Botha doing?” Roux asked a little later.
And again, Roux said: “Where was Mr. Botha now?” Van Rensburg said at points he did not know where Botha was.
During the investigation in the bathroom, van Rensburg also said that he turned around at one point to see that the firearms expert was handling the gun Pistorius used to kill Steenkamp and had taken the magazine out of the weapon without using gloves.
“I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ ” van Rensburg testified. The officer realized his error, apologized, put the magazine back in the gun and laid it on the mat where it was on the floor.
“I was very angry,” van Rensburg said.
Van Rensburg also testified that one of Pistorius’s expensive watches was apparently stolen from the crime scene that night. About eight expensive watches were found in a blood-spattered box in Pistorius’s bedroom and van Rensburg said he warned fellow officers that the watches should be observed closely because they could be tempting to anyone moving through the crime scene.
Pistorius’s sister asked if she could take one of the watches, leaving seven in place, he said. But van Rensburg said another went missing while he was out of the room, prompting him to order the frisking of all the police forensic experts on the scene, as well as a search of their bags and vehicles, and the entire house.