Pistorius' girlfriend was first shot in hip: ballistics expert

Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:17pm EDT
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By John Mkhize

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend was first shot in the hip, not the head, a South African police ballistics expert told his murder trial on Wednesday, supporting the testimony of earlier witnesses who said they heard screams during a volley of shots.

The Olympic and Paralympic track star's defense has argued Reeva Steenkamp was first hit in the head and could not have continued to scream in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013, when she was killed at his luxury Pretoria home.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to the premeditated murder of the 29-year-old model and law graduate, saying he shot her through the toilet door in a tragic accident, having mistaken her for an intruder.

Prosecutors are seeking to prove that Pistorius fired four rounds through the door from a 9 mm pistol, in a deliberate attempt to kill. If found guilty of murder, he faces a minimum of 25 years behind bars.

Police ballistics expert Christian Mangena said he believed Steenkamp had been standing behind the door when the first bullet struck her hip, causing her to fall down on top of a magazine rack next to the toilet seat.

He said she was most likely seated in a defensive position by the time the final bullet hit her in the head. "Reeva must have had both hands covering her head protectively," Mangena testified.

"The last bullet hit her on the head, breaking the skull."

The court also saw grisly pictures of the blood-spattered toilet.   Continued...

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius takes notes as he sits in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, March 17, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko