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Thu Dec 18 07:39:23 SAST 2014

Revealed: The police case against 'trigger-happy' Oscar

WERNER SWART | 18 August, 2013 09:57
OSCAR PISTORIUS MURDER TRIAL; PRETORIA; SOUTH AFRICA
Murder accused Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock of the Pretoria magistrates court before a brief court appearance. Pistorius is accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on valentines day this year. The case was postponed to 19 August 2013.
Image by: DANIEL BORN

The police have built a case against Oscar Pistorius as a trigger-happy gunman prone to violent outbursts.

This is the central theme of their strategy against the Blade Runner, who will be back in court tomorrow.

Pistorius's past boasting of being a crack shot and threats to "break people's legs" could come back to haunt him because the prosecution will now rely on former girlfriends and associates in an attempt to expose his "aggressive character".

The Sunday Times has learnt that ballistic tests have shown Pistorius was, in fact, on his stumps when he pumped bullets through the toilet door in the early hours of Valentine's Day, killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The Paralympic and Olympic star will tomorrow be formally served with an indictment. His trial will begin in the High Court in Pretoria at the beginning of March next year.

Tomorrow will be "especially tough" on Steenkamp's family, a friend of her parents said, because the model would have celebrated her 30th birthday.

"I'm sure they will keep an eye on developments in Pretoria, but they really just want to have a dignified day with prayers to remember their daughter," the friend said.

People close to the investigation revealed this week that ballistic tests support Pistorius's earlier claims in court that he did not have his prosthetic legs on when he fired the shots. He claimed that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar when he heard a noise in the bathroom.

This is a crucial aspect of the case against Pistorius.

The prosecution had earlier argued that he put on his prosthetic legs before walking to the bathroom, where he fired the shots - the inference being that he had more than enough time to check whether his girlfriend was still in bed with him.

Now, by adding more gun-related charges, the prosecution has shown its hand by adopting a strategy whereby it will home in on Pistorius's "aggressive" behaviour to try to show he was prone to violent outbursts, which, it will say, was why he killed Steenkamp.

A copy of the police's docket was handed over to the defence team on Thursday - and will now be scrutinised by the team of experts, including top forensic pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal and ballistic expert Tom "Wollie" Wolmarans, who are part of the crack team in Pistorius's corner.

Jannie van der Westhuizen, an expert in the field of blood spatter, has been appointed by the defence. His expertise has re sulted in him working in a number of countries, including the US.

The prosecution intends adding two other charges of reckless and negligent discharge of a firearm. But Pistorius's defence intends making representations before an official decision is made to add these charges.

Pistorius's appearance is expected to be brief, but the court building will again be swamped by media from all over the world.

The additional charges against Pistorius relate to:

An incident at a Melrose Arch restaurant, Tashas, in January where he "accidentally" fired a shot, nearly hitting his friend, Kevin Lerena, in the foot; and

Firing shots in the air through the car's sunroof while driving with former girlfriend Samantha Taylor last year.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said he could not confirm the added charges, saying: "All these issues will come out in court on Monday. As the NPA, we are ready and satisfied with the case."

A person with inside knowledge of the strategy against Pistorius said: "The defence will try to show that his actions were reasonable for a person with a disability. Such a person would feel more vulnerable than an able-bodied person and react differently when their life is in danger.

"That is why his past behaviour, like shooting a gun in a restaurant and boasting of being such a good shot on Twitter, will be used to show here is a person who knows exactly how to use a firearm and is not afraid to use it."

Professor Stephen Tuson, a criminal law expert at the Universiy of the Witwatersrand, said even if it was shown Pistorius was telling the truth about being on his stumps, he still had serious questions to answer.

"The devil is in the detail," said Tuson. "The fact of the matter is he shot through a door unsighted, thinking there was a person behind it ... he says he walked back to the bed on his stumps and shouted to Reeva to call the police. But at this time she could have been screaming in pain. This case is going to be about the finer details."

He said the defence's strategy that Pistorius would have felt more vulnerable than an able-bodied person could work in his favour. "They would definitely argue for the court to lower the bar for Oscar to show his actions were reasonable for a person with a disability."

It is understood that police are still waiting for experts to unlock Pistorius's iPhone 5, found on the scene. The phone's password is needed to access deleted items. A police source said: "Three times now Oscar has claimed he can't remember the password. We are just waiting for Apple computer experts to unlock it for us. We think there may be something interesting on this phone."

Taylor will be called by the prosecution when the trial starts and her testimony could bolster the state's case of a "trigger-happy" Pistorius.

She dated Pistorius last year and previously claimed that he had a dark side the world did not know about. Her mother said on Facebook after the shooting: "I'm so glad Sammy is safe and out of the clutches of that man."

The witness list has more than 100 names, including those of former investigating officer Hilton Botha, state pathologist Dr Gert Saayman and former soccer player Marc Batchelor.

Batchelor is expected to testify about an altercation between him and Pistorius during which the athlete threatened to "break his legs".

Earlier speculation claimed Pistorius and Steenkamp were involved in a love triangle with Springbok Francois Hougaard, whom she dated before her romance with Pistorius. The rugby player's name, however, is not on the witness list.

Pistorius spent this week in the Western Cape where he was spotted kayaking with friends in Hermanus.

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