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Mon Dec 22 14:42:20 SAST 2014

Oscar surfed porn sites on fatal night

Werner Swart | 23 February, 2014 08:01
GRIM SCENE: Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, top, and the home in a luxury estate in eastern Pretoria where he shot her in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year, bottom left. On the right is the scene of the shooting, an enclosed toilet inside the master bathroom
Image by: Reuters/Getty Images/ Sky News

In the hours before he shot and killed his model girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius was surfing his cellphone looking at porn sites.

This is among the sensational evidence the state will present when the world-famous "Blade Runner" goes on trial for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp in just more than a week's time.

It has already been billed as the criminal trial of the decade as the double amputee, who against the odds earned the right to compete against able-bodied athletes and became an international sporting icon, steps into the dock.

The revelation about Pistorius's porn activities, discovered through data retrieved by the police from one of his cellphones found on the crime scene, is at odds with his description of his relationship with Steenkamp, a blonde stunner who appeared on several magazine covers and had a bright future ahead of her.

The timing of his internet "activities" - which also included surfing used-car sites - corresponds with the time he and Steenkamp were at home together on the eve of Valentine's Day.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said in court papers in a reply to the defence this week that "the accused's website activities from the time that he got home is in direct contrast to that of a loving couple spending time together".

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation said: "The history recovered from this phone shows he visited those sites during the time they were at home together. Why was he checking out such sites while she was there?"

Pistorius's love for fast cars - he once bragged about owning a McLaren supercar he had not yet received - is also evident from his many visits to websites featuring cars.

Statements from close friends will seek to portray the fact that the relationship between the two at the time of the killing was not that rosy. The couple had been dating for a few months by then.

A key witness in this regard will be model Samantha Greyvenstein, who supported Pistorius during his bail application but is one of the friends who could testify that he was "possessive".

What has been known until now about the events before the killing was from Pistorius's version.

In his bail application last year, Pistorius said: "By about 22:00 we were in our bedroom . . . We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way."

Steenkamp had arrived at Pistorius's home in the luxury Silver Woods Country Estate, east of Pretoria, in her Mini Cooper just before 6pm. The last known image of her was captured by CCTV cameras at the estate's entrance, where she smiled and chatted to a security guard. The athlete arrived about 10 minutes later in a white BMW, and the two remained at home throughout the night.

Pistorius said they decided to spend the night at home instead of going out with friends. They made dinner, she later did yoga and he watched television.

The state says of that night: " There was an argument . . . the accused killed the deceased because of that argument."

When the case gets under way, the eyes of the world will be fixed on the Paralympic superstar as he stands in the dock for the biggest fight of his life - a far cry from 20 months ago when he had the world at the tips of his prosthetic blades at the London Olympic Games.

Pistorius will hear witness after witness describe:

  • How, on the morning of Valentine's Day last year, they heard Steenkamp shout at him. Moments later, these witnesses will say, they heard a gunshot, a scream in anguish and three more shots, followed by silence;
  • That he first told security guards who phoned to inquire what was going on that he was "fine", and in the minutes after that phoned close friends to tell them what had happened; and
  • That it was impossible for him not to have realised Steenkamp was not in the bed when he stormed to the bathroom and - a self-described crack shot - fired at the door with intent and purpose, judging by the proximity and angle of the bullet entries.

Evidence will be led that Steenkamp took her cellphones to the toilet with her and that she was clothed, standing upright and facing the door when she was shot.

The NPA's case was leaked to sections of the media this week, and questions were raised over which side stood to benefit from the revelations.

NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube denied emphatically that the leak came from the prosecuting body.

He said he could not speculate on whether this would have any effect on the trial.

A top lawyer, who does not want to be identified, said both sides could have benefited from the leaks : "For the state, the leaking of it could take the sting out of some of its shortcomings in its case . . . let the public know now what they don't have.

"And if it was the defence [who leaked it], it could put pressure on the prosecution and even witnesses at this stage to remind them their every move and action will come under scrutiny."

Pistorius has maintained his innocence, claiming he thought his and Steenkamp's lives were in danger when he heard what he feared was an intruder in the bathroom.

This week's reply to the defence from the NPA confirmed what the Sunday Times exclusively revealed in August last year: that Pistorius was on his stumps when he fired the shots through the bathroom door that killed Steenkamp.

During his bail application last year, the state at first claimed he had time to put on his prosthetic legs before walking to the bathroom - giving him time to ascertain where Steenkamp was.

Pistorius, however, said he was on his stumps, in a panic and fearful for his and Steenkamp's lives.

A top criminal lawyer who has had insight into the defence's strategy said they would pick away at every state witness to find any discrepancy.

"It's important for the defence to keep polishing their own marbles. That is, their client told the same story from the moment the police arrived and he stuck to his story throughout. They would want to show that some witnesses' versions could not reasonably be true and his story remains consistent and probable," he said.

The Pistorius murder trial will be a ground-breaking event for South Africa's criminal justice system and may be a nightmare to manage.

On Tuesday, the judge president of the High Court in Johannesburg and Pretoria, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, will rule on an application by media houses to have the trial broadcast live on television and radio.

This was fiercely opposed by Pistorius's legal team. His advocate, Barry Roux, said witnesses would be less likely to concede a mistake when on camera.

A University of the Witwatersrand law expert, Professor Stephen Tuson, said it would be important for the court to decide on this by differentiating between "merit" and expert witnesses.

"Merit witnesses are those who were eyewitnesses or part of what happened," he said. "It will be important for them not to hear what the witness before them said because that could influence or sway their testimony.

"In the US, where they have a jury system, they call for a seclusion of the jury. Here, it will be important to make sure witnesses don't feed off the other's evidence."

Tuson said having expert witnesses' testimony broadcast should not pose problems, however, because they are "not eyewitnesses to the event and are called upon to present evidence based on fact, obtained through their different levels of expertise".

He said the responsibility of managing who is inside the court and, potentially, whose evidence is broadcast will rest with the prosecution.

The media interest in the case is expected to reach frenetic proportions. More than 300 journalists from around the world will converge on the High Court in Pretoria to lap up every detail.

Major news organisations such as Bloomberg, Associated Press and CNN confirmed that they would each have more than a dozen staff working on the story.

Lulama Luti, spokesman for the office of the chief justice, said the final media accreditation process had yet to be finalised, but 80 reporters would have space inside the main courtroom.

"These include both local and international journalists. Obviously, we are looking into striking a balance between accrediting small and large news organisations, while also ensuring that there is equal representation of both national and international media," she said.

Pistorius has not been spotted in public recently. Neighbours in the area of his uncle Arnold's Water-kloof home , where Pistorius has been spending most of his time since the incident, said he was a rare sight.

A gardener who works and lives just a few houses from the family's Lawley Street home said he had "a single chance sighting" of the athlete last year.

"I doubt he walks these streets," said the gardener.

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