Pistorius not wearing prosthetic legs when he smashed locked door to reach girlfriend: witness

Oscar Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he smashed a locked door with a cricket bat to reach his shot girlfriend, according to a key forensic witness at his murder trial.

But the same state witness on Wednesday conceded there may have been flaws in the police handling of crucial exhibits, including the toilet door that holds so many clues to the Olympian’s fatal 2013 Valentine’s Day shooting of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The double-amputee claims after he shot who he believed to be an intruder in his toilet cubicle in the early hours of February 14 last year, he returned to his bedroom, put on his prosthesis and bashed down the door – only then realising it was his girlfriend.

However, the state is alleging Pistorius bashed the door first in a rage, and then fired four bullets into the door – all on the stumps of his amputated legs.

Colonel Johannes Vermeulen, from the South African Police’s forensic science laboratory, was the 12th witness called in the case and did so standing next to a replica of Pistorius’ toilet cubicle.

Brandishing the Lazer English Willow cricket bat, Colonel Vermeulen demonstrated to the judge the precise angles required for the bat to strike the wooden panels in a way that would match the marks visible on the door.

Removing his jacket, he kneeled down beside the door to indicate the only way to get those marks was if they were made by someone considerably shorter than him.

A 29-year veteran in forensic investigation, Colonel Vermeulen said he concluded that Pistorius wielded the bat from a ''height similar to when he fired the shots''.

Chief Prosecutor Gerrie Nel confirmed to the court that it was the state’s case that Pistorius was not wearing his prosthetic legs either when he shot the door or bashed it down with the bat.

Defence lawyer Barry Roux cross-examined Colonel Vermeulen vigorously, asking him to demonstrate other possible ways the marks could have been made, including standing further back while aligning the bat with one of the marks.

''Does it match?'' he asked.

The witness agreed, but quickly added it was an ''unnatural'' position and said it would be difficult to strike the door with enough force while his back was bent in the manner suggested.

Mr Roux also made the witness kneel down and try to lift his feet from the floor in a manner similar to Pistorius without his artificial limbs.

''I lost my balance,'' the Colonel said afterwards.

However Colonel Vermeulen, who has completed almost 1400 forensic investigations, said he was not an amputee so it was an unfair comparison.

''If he had enough balance to fire a firearm, he would have had enough balance to hit the door,'' he said.

Mr Roux told the court the defence would present evidence that Pistorius had kicked the door with his prosthetic leg – and Colonel Vermeulen agreed this was possible.

In a statement to his bail hearing last year, Pistorius said he had ''put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open'' before he then ''grabbed a cricket bat and tried to bash the door open''.

Colonel Vermeulen said he had not been aware of this evidence until recently.

Indeed, the Colonel appeared to agree with this defence version, saying it appeared to him as though the shots were fired before the door was smacked with the bat.

Mr Roux questioned the witness about the way in which exhibits were handled after the fatal shooting, saying there were suggestions the door had been ''trampled'' on by officers sometime after the incident.

Colonel Vermeulen conceded the door had what appeared to be police footprints on it at one point, but they were not there now.

There were also ''significant'' marks on the door which were not visible in photographs taken of the exhibit in March last year.

Mr Roux has previously alleged the police carrying out the investigation were incompetent, the crime scene contaminated and evidence collection botched.

Colonel Vermeulen said the door had been protected in a body bag when it came to him for examination – but conceded there may have been issues with the security of the evidence.

The cricket bat owned by Pistorius was shown in court to be covered in signatures. South African cricketer Hershelle Gibbs was apparently watching live television coverage of the trial and tweeted on Wednesday morning: ''Just saw my signature on the bat used by the accused in oscar trial lol #neveradullmoment''

The story Pistorius not wearing prosthetic legs when he smashed locked door to reach girlfriend: witness first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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